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Posted On Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 11:26 AM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Knuble set to be healthy scratch for Caps against Jets

ARLINGTON, Va. -- A trying season for Capitals veteran Mike Knuble hit a new low this morning when he was told that he would be a healthy scratch tonight against the Winnipeg Jets.

Knuble, 39, has played in all 53 games this season, the majority of which have been spent on Washington's fourth line.

The eight-time 20-goal scorer has three goals and 11 points this season and is a team-worst minus-14.

Knuble has not scored since Dec. 5 -- a stretch of 27 games in which he has been held to just 3 assists -- and he skated a season-low 8:31 in a 4-1 loss Sunday afternoon to Boston.

With Knuble out, Jay Beagle returns to the lineup after sitting as a healthy scratch for five straight games.

"It's always hard to do but we put Beagle in for more speed," coach Dale Hunter said. "Mike hasn't scored in a while and we figured we'd get him up top to watch the game."

Knuble did not speak to reporters after staying on the ice for extra work this morning with fellow healthy scratch John Erskine and backup goalie Michal Neuvirth.

"We know that he's a team leader," Hunter said. "He worked hard out here [this morning] and that's what leadership is all about, but we wanted to add more team speed and he's the odd-man out."

Hunter said he expects Beagle to play just more than 10 minutes against Winnipeg, including ice time on the Caps' penalty kill.

Beagle will skate on the fourth line alongside Keith Aucoin and Brooks Laich. Aucoin will play in his fourth straight game since being recalled from Hershey of the American Hockey League last week, while Laich remains limited after suffering a left knee injury Sunday.

Laich skated a season-low 9:28 in a 4-0 win Tuesday against Florida.
 
Here are the Capitals' and Jets' projected lineups for a key Southeast Division meeting at Verizon Center:
 
CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward
Brooks Laich - Keith Aucoin - Jay Beagle
 
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Roman Hamrlik
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman
 
Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth
 
JETS
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane - Nik Antropov - Eric Fehr
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Alexander Burmistrov - Aaron Gagnon - Antti Miettinen
 
Tobias Enstrom - Dustin Byfuglien
Ron Hainsey - Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart - Johnny Oduya
 
Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason


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Posted On Friday, 01.13.2012 / 12:20 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Vokoun back in net for Caps vs. Lightning

WASHINGTON -- Tomas Vokoun will make his eighth straight start tonight as the Capitals continue their four-game homestand against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Caps have won five straight at Verizon Center and own the second-best home record in the Eastern Conference at 15-5-1.

Nicklas Backstrom will miss his fourth straight game after taking an elbow to the head from then-Calgary Flame Rene Bourque Jan. 3.

Mike Green also will miss his third straight game after aggravating his previously injured groin last Saturday in San Jose. Green has missed 25 of the past 27 games and was placed on long-term injured reserve yesterday. He is not eligible to return until Feb.1 at the earliest.

With Green placed on LTIR, forward prospect Cody Eakin was recalled from AHL Hershey and will be in the lineup tonight. Eakin has 3 goals and 6 points in 20 NHL games this season.

Defenseman Tomas Kundratek also is expected back in Washington's lineup after making his NHL debut in Wednesday's 1-0 win against Pittsburgh.

The Capitals and Lightning haven't played since Washington's 6-5 shootout win Oct. 10; they'll meet five times in the second half of the season.

The top two teams in the Southeast Division a year ago enter play Friday fighting for a playoff position. The Caps begin the day tied eighth in the Eastern Conference, eight points clear of the 13th-place Lightning.

The Lightning still are seeking their first win of 2012, having gone 0-4-1 since a 5-2 win against Carolina on New Year's Eve.

Steven Stamkos remains the NHL's goal-scoring leader, with 29 in 42 games, but the Bolts have allowed a league-worst 3.40 goals per game.

Here is the lineup for both teams; the Capitals had a morning skate, while the Lightning, after playing Carolina last night, opted against skating today. Tampa dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen last night, so their forward lines lacked real consistency.

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin - Marcus Johansson - Alexander Semin
Mike Knuble - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Matt Hendricks - Jeff Halpern - Joel Ward
Jason Chimera - Cody Eakin - Jay Beagle

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Dennis Wideman
Roman Hamrlik - Tomas Kundratek

Tomas Vokoun will make his eighth straight start in net, with Michal Neuvirth the backup.

Forward Mathieu Perreault and defensemen John Erskine and Jeff Schultz will be scratched.

LIGHTNING
Tom Pyatt - Vincent Lecavalier - Steve Downie
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Brett Connolly
Ryan Malone - Dominic Moore - Teddy Purcell
Dana Tyrell - Nate Thompson   

Marc-Andre Bergeron - Matt Gilroy
Brett Clark - Bruno Gervais
Eric Brewer - Pavel Kubina
Brendan Mikkelson

With Mathieu Garon starting last night, it's likely he'll back-up Dwayne Roloson tonight.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.20.2011 / 3:20 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Neuvirth in net for offensively-struggling Capitals

WASHINGTON -- Mike Knuble will skate in his 1,000th career game Tuesday night when the Washington Capitals play host to the Nashville Predators at Verizon Center.

The Capitals will honor Knuble prior to the opening faceoff and all Caps players will wear jerseys with the No.22 in warmups. The jerseys will later be auctioned off for charity.

“I didn’t really know that until I was on Twitter last night,” Knuble said of his teammates plan to sport his jersey number. “I saw it on Twitter … I know my wife has been up to things behind the scenes a little bit so you just roll with what happens. I think that’s very nice. It’s a great chance to play this game in Washington as a Capital. I’m very happy with that and it will be flattering when you see the guys on the ice.”

Knuble has scored at least 20 goals in eight straight seasons – a streak that could come to an end in April. Through 31 games this season, Knuble has three goals and nine points while skating primarily on Washington’s fourth line.

While Knuble’s offensive numbers may be down, he expects to have an extra jump in his step tonight with plenty of friends and family taking in game No. 1,000.

“It’s a fun day, just try to enjoy the day,” Knuble said. “There’s still a game to play and I guess there will be some talk and fun before the game, but once the puck drops the game is on and you move on. Tomorrow I anticipate waking up and everything [will be] back to normal but today is a fun day and it’s a day you should enjoy as a player.”

The Predators enter play Tuesday having won seven of 10 games and five straight overall. Their last 10 games have also all been decided by one goal.

The Capitals are 4-5-0 since Dale Hunter took over as coach Nov. 28, but continue to struggle offensively. Washington has scored just once in each of its last three games.

Michal Neuvirth is expected to make his third straight start for the Caps, while backup Anders Lindback gets the nod for Nashville.

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

CAPITALS

Alex OvechkinBrooks LaichTroy Brouwer
Marcus JohanssonNicklas BackstromAlexander Semin
Jason ChimeraBrooks LaichJoel Ward
Matt HendricksMathieu PerreaultMike Knuble

Karl AlznerJohn Carlson
John ErskineDennis Wideman
Dmitry OrlovRoman Hamrlik

Michal Neuvirth
Tomas Vokoun

PREDATORS

Martin EratDavid LegwandCraig Smith
Sergei KostitsynMike FisherPatric Hornqvist
Colin WilsonNick SpalingJordin Tootoo
Matt HalischukBlake GeoffrionJerred Smithson

Ryan SuterShea Weber
Francis Bouillon – Jonathan Blum
Jack HillenRoman Josi

Anders Lindback
Pekka Rinne
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 7:39 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Caps Camp: Baltimore trip holds memories for Boudreau

The Capitals will travel up I-95 Tuesday when they open the preseason against the Nashville Predators as part of the Baltimore Hockey Classic. The Caps last played in Charm City in 1992.

"It's unique that we're sold out for every [home] game this year," Caps general manager George McPhee said, "and now we can go up to Baltimore for a Tuesday night preseason against a non-conference team and sell that building out."

More than 11,000 fans are expected at Baltimore's 1st Mariner Arena, which housed the American Hockey League's Skipjacks from 1982-93 and later the AHL's Bandits from 1995-97.

Tuesday's game is sure to bring back memories for both Predators coach Barry Trotz and Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. Trotz was the coach in Baltimore in 1992-93 when the Skipjacks were a Capitals affiliate and Boudreau played for a Skipjacks team that reached the 1985 Calder Cup final.

"We went to the finals and we lost against a guy by the name of Patrick Roy," Boudreau recalled on the first day of Capitals training camp.

"The team in Sherbrooke that beat us, I think nine of those guys ended up graduating to the Canadiens the next year and won the Stanley Cup, so there were a lot of good Montreal Canadiens that beat us the last year I played there."

Boudreau remembers the Skipjacks drawing crowds of 5,000 on their championship run, which were "adequate at the time for the American League."

Among Boudreau's teammates in Baltimore were future NHLers Andy Brickley, Marty McSorley, Phil Bourque, Bob Errey and John Casey. 

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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 5:54 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Capitals Camp: Hamrlik held back as precaution

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Free agent signee Roman Hamrlik did not complete the Capitals' mandatory conditioning test on the first day of training camp because of tightness in his groin.

"I wanted to be safe," Hamrlik said. "It was a hard practice and I had some tightness in my groin. It was a good move by Bruce."

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said he was being "overly cautious" with his 38-year-old defenseman, who did take part in practic

"I just said ‘Hey listen, I don't want you to do this,'" Boudreau said of his conversation with Hamrlik. ‘"Let's be precautionary. We'll do the test in a week when you feel better.'"

Hamrlik arrived in D.C. on Wednesday after spending the first two weeks of September skating with his former teammates in Montreal.

"When you get older everything is harder for you," he said. "I have a few weeks to get in better shape and be ready for the season."

Hamrlik has proven durable during his career, appearing in at least 75 games in each of the past five seasons. He was also a minutes-eater in Montreal and led the Canadiens in time on ice last season.

"I wanted to make sure that - on his first day out with us - that he wasn't trying to be overly brave and do something," Boudreau said. "Once he said, they're a little tight, I said, 'OK, fine, shut it down.' "

Hamrlik plans to return to practice tomorrow.
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 5:49 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Capitals Camp: Poti fails physical; Wideman, Green healthy

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Capitals general manager George McPhee confirmed on Day One of training that defenseman Tom Poti did not pass his physical. The 34-year-old remains sidelined with a groin injury that limited him to just 21 games last season. Poti will begin the year on long-term injured reserve.

"He failed the medical but we'll try a different program to see if we can get him back to a hundred percent," McPhee said. "He's worked really hard in trying to get ready and he's still unable to do it. We'll see if the new program works. If he can play at some point this year, he would help us a lot."

McPhee did not elaborate on the new program, but said that it would not include surgery. Poti's inability to begin the season comes as no big shock after McPhee suggested at last year's exit meetings that the defenseman's career "could be in jeopardy."

"I was concerned whether he'd be able to play again," McPhee said. "It's why we went out and signed [Roman] Hamrlik. We didn't want to be short. Unfortunately, he's no further along."

If Poti is indeed placed on LTIR, it will relieve the Capitals of his $2.875 million salary cap hit. Poti signed a two-year extension during last year's training camp that is for this campaign and next. He was not made available for comment.

"I met with him yesterday and he's certainly frustrated and we're disappointed because he's a good player," McPhee said. "He played very good hockey and made us better."

While Poti remains sidelined, other Washington defensemen are chomping at the bit to return from their own injuries.

Dennis Wideman missed the final five games of the regular-season and all of the playoffs with a leg hematoma. Wideman now sports a six-inch scar above his knee but the 28-year-old says he's good to suit up in the pre-season.

"As far as the practice went, I felt pretty good," Wideman said. "When we got to the conditioning I felt like I was a little bit behind where I would like to be at this point. But the good news is we still have a couple more weeks… As far as strength and skating go, I'm 100 percent."

Wideman was acquired from the Panthers at last year's trade deadline, but the offensive-minded defenseman never had the chance to play with Mike Green.

Green missed the final 19 games of the regular-season with a concussion and Game 4 of the Capitals second round series against Tampa Bay with a hip flexor.

The two-time Norris Trophy nominee had an off-year by his standards with eight goals and 24 points -- his lowest totals since he was a rookie in 2006-07.

But with Wideman and Green both healthy, and John Carlson set to begin his second full NHL season, expectations are high for the Capitals' puck-moving defensemen.
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 3:35 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Capitals Camp: Search for No. 2 center continues

ARLINGTON, Va. -- When Sergei Fedorov left the NHL to play in his native Russia after the 2008-09 season, he also left the Capitals with a big vacancy. Two years later, the search for a second-line center continues in Washington.

"I've given a lot of thought to it," Coach Bruce Boudreau said, "and it will probably clear itself up next week. We'll probably experiment a little bit in the first three pre-season games with positions and stuff."

Since Fedorov's departure, the Caps revolving No. 2 center position has been filled by Brendan Morrison, Eric Belanger, Tomas Fleischmann, Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perreault and Jason Arnott.
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 1:29 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Capitals Camp: Ovechkin: "No more excuses"

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin's Sept. 1 arrival in D.C., his earliest to start the season since his rookie year, was one of many signs in the weeks leading up to training camp that things would be different this year.

As camp opened this morning, a new attitude surrounds this Capitals bunch, regular-season darlings for four years with wins in only two playoff rounds to show for their efforts.

"When guys are younger you give them a little more leeway for mistakes on and off the ice," said veteran Mike Knuble, entering his third season with the Caps. "You have to live with some errors on the ice and you live with some errors off the ice -- you put up with guys being late, figuring stuff out, not being on-time, but that was erased last year for the most part and I expect this year will be even tighter."
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Posted On Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 10:36 AM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Super Saturday

Capitals Camp: No Poti for the Caps this morning

ARLINGTON, VA -- Twenty-two Capitals, including six defensemen, have taken to the ice for Washington's first on-ice session of training camp. Tom Poti is not among them.

The 34-year-old defenseman was among the 23 players listed in 'Group A' but it comes as little surprise that he is not on the ice.

Poti was limited to just 21 games last season due to nagging groin injuries and general manager George McPhee suggested at the team's exit meetings last May that Poti's career "could be in jeopardy."

Poti signed a two-year extension last September -- a deal that starts this season and comes with $2.875 annual salary cap hit -- but McPhee operated this summer as though Poti would not start the campaign.
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