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Posted at 1:37 PM ET, 12/29/2010

Winter Classic lineup planning creates a headache for Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau

By Katie Carrera

For the past few days and even weeks, the concern for some players has been making sure they're healthy in time to possibly play in the Winter Classic against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday at Heinz Field. During Tuesday's morning skate, nearly all players who have been nursing ailments or injuries took part in an effort to prepare for the chance to take part in the NHL's annual outdoor showcase.

All of which makes picking a lineup for that day even more difficult for Coach Bruce Boudreau, who was asked if he was excited to play in the Winter Classic after the 3-0 win against Montreal.

"I'm eager to get it over with; there's been so much buildup," Boudreau said. "And I hope it doesn't rain."

With Washington hobbled by injuries on multiple fronts in the weeks leading up to New Year's Day, several players were given the opportunity to earn a role with the Capitals and, by extension, have a shot to play outside at Heinz Field.

Players like Jay Beagle, who scored his second goal in four games against the Canadiens; Andrew Gordon, who was reassigned to Hershey on Tuesday night; John Erskine, who has stepped up as a daily part of the defense due to injuries but can be an odd man out when all are healthy; Eric Fehr, who had a strong game against Montreal but has been a healthy scratch in two of the past four contests; and D.J. King, who has been a healthy scratch or on injured reserve most of the year.

But Jeff Schultz (fractured thumb) came back against Montreal, Tom Poti (head injury) is still hoping to be ready for the big game and so are Mathieu Perreault (broken nose) and Marcus Johansson (undisclosed). Unfortunately for Matt Bradley, his broken finger will prevent him from playing.

"There's a lot of guys trying to make the case and I'm trying to not even think about playing somebody because he is who he is," Boudreau said. "I'm just going to put what I think is the best lineup is to win that night. ... I would love to play them all, believe me, but you're only allowed to put 18 and two out there."

As for who might mind the Capitals' net, Boudreau wouldn't tip his hand. When both Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth have been healthy, the usual decision goes to whoever earned the last win or is on a roll. In this case, that would be Varlamov.

"I don't know," Boudreau said, when asked which goaltender would start in the Winter Classic. "Let me think about that one. I wont give that away. They've both been very good. We could always go with two goalies -- we've done that before. We'll see how it works."

By Katie Carrera  | December 29, 2010; 1:37 PM ET
Categories:  Pittsburgh Penguins, Winter Classic  
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Comments

- Either goalie or both deserves it
- For defense I would prefer to see Hanaan sit and Erskine in, he's earned that much
- On the offensive side, who is injured and out and who is injured and questionable will be the decider

Ovechkin, Backstrom, Knuble
Laich, Johansson, Semin
Chimera, Perrault, Fehr
Hendricks, Steckel, Beagle

Healthy scratch: DJ King
Injury scratch: Boyd Gordon, Bradley
AHL callups: Andrew Gordon, Aucoin

Posted by: dimagus | December 29, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Should have elaborated on my prior post for the defense, Hanaan only would have to sit if Poti is healthy for the game and we have all 8 to choose from.

Obviously if Poti can't make it, Hanaan is in and the decision is Erskine or Sloan for the odd man out.

Posted by: dimagus | December 29, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

"Rolston has two years left on his contract with an annual cap hit of $5.062 million (37 yrs old)For the season, Rolston totalled two goals and three assists in 20 games."

No thanks

Posted by: lylewimbledon | December 29, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

@dimagus

There is no way they sit Hannan. Him and Green together the last 3 games have been awesome. That pair is here to stay.

Posted by: ThePat | December 29, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

They could sit Poti, he hasn't been so great lately.

Posted by: capscoach | December 29, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

FWIW, The Weather Channel is now saying that Sunday will be cloudy with little chance of rain and a high of 33. Saturday is still showing a high of 48 with a 50% chance of rain.

Sounds to me like we should definitely get an outdoor game this weekend. What day it will be is still the question.

Hoping for safe travels for everyone making the trek.

Posted by: sabredc | December 29, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

throw away favorites and emotional connections - what is the best team available to beat the Pens? No way you sit Hannan the way he is playing lately...BB knows that.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | December 29, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

So all over hockey media is "can Crosby extend his streak?"

they are playing the Islanders tonight...I surely hope he can!

Posted by: capscoach | December 29, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

@dimagus

Why would you demote Perrault to third line after his showing with Semin et al on the second line in his past few games?

Also agree with @ThePat on not breaking up Green / Hannan for the Classic even if Sarge is back.

Posted by: congero | December 29, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

So all over hockey media is "can Crosby extend his streak?"

they are playing the Islanders tonight...I surely hope he can!

Posted by: capscoach | December 29, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

@congero

I wouldnt demote MP against anyone but he isnt strong enough on the puck to be in this league playing against the top teams. Mostly all his points come against teams that aren't playoff caliber.

Posted by: ThePat | December 29, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

My guess is it will be Varly in goal(you can't really bench him after two very good performances and he has played Pittsburgh well before).

Defense will be the same as last night. No point putting in Poti now. Might as well rest him more. I also believe Erskine deserves to play in the game as he should be rewarded for his solid play so far. (That doesn't mean Erskine can't be benched in the future though)

The forwards will be:

Ovie/Backstrom/Knuble
Laich/MP/Semin
Chimera/MJ/Fehr
Hendricks/Steckel/Beagle

Although the 3rd and 4th lines could be:

Chimera/Beagle/Fehr
Steckel/MJ/Hendricks(with Steckel taking all the draws)

This would keep the Hound Dog line together after last nights great performance.

Posted by: sgm3 | December 29, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

My Classic Lines (more or less)

Ovie/Backs/Knuble-maybe
Semin/MP/Laich
Fehr/MoJo/Chimera
Beagle/Steckel/B-Gordon(if he is in ok shape)

Green/Hannan
Carlson/Alzner-matched against Crosby line like last game
Schultz/Erskine

Posted by: capscoach | December 29, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Ah! I forgot Hendricks! take out B-gordon and put him there.

Posted by: capscoach | December 29, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of how Hanaan has been playing he's still a Rent-a-D and Erskine has greatly improved and would be #6 without the Flash trade.

As far as MP I have no doubt he would play in the Winter Classic despite missing a leg, arm, and a nose. But will he be 100% (and able to breathe out of his nose)? Who knows. Interchange based on health I guess.

Posted by: dimagus | December 29, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

lylewimbledon -
Not that I'm for the idea, but Rolston would be obtained on re-entry waivers. The Caps would only be on the hook for 1/2 of that $5.062 million I believe.

Posted by: j3rockstar | December 29, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I disagree- I think Hannan has played himself into the top 4

Posted by: lylewimbledon | December 29, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

@J3Rockstar

Plus 5. whatever million for next year too.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | December 29, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Is that right? Full cap hit next year?

Posted by: j3rockstar | December 29, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I don't know the rules for next year...That seems like a lot for injured, old guy.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | December 29, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I like Rolston, but I'm a KoolAid drinker, so I'm more than fine with MP or MJ centering that second line.

Posted by: j3rockstar | December 29, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

@j3rockstar

No. Rolston count $2.5M against the cap next year for the team that picks him up. He would count about $1.25M pro-rated this year for the team that picks him up.

Posted by: sgm3 | December 29, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Thanks sgm3. I didn't know the exact numbers but I knew it wasn't the full hit.

Posted by: j3rockstar | December 29, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

We have so many forwards that are ready to make the jump, but we simply have no room for them...I say we either use them next season and consider it a mini re-build, or trade them for some picks.

I bet some of the Hershey guys wish they would be traded or something...they have a good shot of playing time on other teams.

Posted by: capscoach | December 29, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

What color are Caps fans wearing Saturday? White?

Posted by: McBride33 | December 29, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Nope, Rockin the Red baby!!!

Posted by: C-A-P-Scapscapscaps | December 30, 2010 5:15 AM | Report abuse

They could sit Poti, he hasn't been so great lately.

Posted by: capscoach


I agree, but I suspect if Poti can play he's in and Erskine is out.

Posted by: BetterOffWithFedorov | December 30, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Official Winter Classic Jerseys:

Caps: White; red shoulder, winter classic patch on shoulder instead of eagle; 2 horizontal stripes red and blue; red & blue stars.

Pens: Dark blue; light blue horizontal stripes; light blue stripes on sleeves; skating penguin on yellow upside triangle in blue circle.

Of course play Hannan. Sit Poti; play Erskine.
Sit B.Gordon; play Hendricks

Stay with Varly

Let's get some treats!!!

Posted by: dalves999 | December 30, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Nope, Rockin the Red baby!!!

Posted by: C-A-P-Scapscapscaps | December 30, 2010 5:15 AM
---------------------
Getting up at 5:15 AM to post on a Caps board- awesome, dude. Now that's true devotion! Oh, and I agree- Rock the Red baby! :)

Posted by: redhotCAPSaicin | December 30, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

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