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Posted On Saturday, 04.23.2011 / 4:15 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Green returns after taking shot to head

Caps defenseman Mike Green slid along the ice to block a shot by Rangers defenseman Matt Gilroy and absorbed the puck with the side of his head.

He left the game with 6:11 remaining in the first period following the block and did not return for the start of the second period.

However, he returned to the Capitals' bench about halfway through the second period.

Green missed the last 20 games of the regular season with concussion issues. The shot by Gilroy appeared to hit Green in the helmet/visor. There was no blood on the ice after the play, a good sign Green avoided serious injury.

But with Green's concussion history, any sort of contact with his head has an added importance.

Green scored the series' first first-period goal at 5:59 of the first period to put the Caps ahead 1-0. Green has a point in all four games of this series.

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Posted On Friday, 04.22.2011 / 3:05 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Capitals not worrying about redemption

Saturday afternoon could be a day of redemption for Alex Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals, but neither he nor coach Bruce Boudreau really see it that way.

The Capitals will play host to the New York Rangers in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series and, with a 3-1 lead, have a chance to finish off the visitors. They were in this situation one year ago, ahead 3-1 against the Montreal Canadiens with Game 5 at Verizon Center, but ended up losing three straight contests and the series.

"It is new year, new series, new team," Ovechkin said. "I think if you going remember everything bad, then it is going to be bad for you. I think tomorrow first 10 minutes is going to be very important for us and them too."

Whether other players on the team or the coaching staff decide to use what transpired in Game 5 against the Canadiens as motivation for Saturday, Ovechkin is looking forward, not back.

"I don't remember nothing. I forget about it," he said. "We get experience. We know we can't go back. We have to play better every game and every period."

Montreal grabbed an early 2-0 lead in Game 5 against Washington last April and the series was never the same. Jaroslav Halak allowed only three goals in the final three games and the Canadiens were able to eke out just enough offense on the counter-attack to win the final two games as well.

The Canadiens were the attacking team in the first 10 minutes of Game 5, though, and they caught the Capitals for two goals -- both against Ovechkin's line and both scored from the area he typically is entrusted to defend (between the right point and the top of the right faceoff circle).

"I just see everything as team-oriented," Boudreau said. "I don't think we've got anybody thinking about, 'I can redeem myself' or 'I can look better.' We just want to go out there and play as well as we can."

Boudreau said he doesn't expect to show video from Game 5 against Montreal, but that game has been a point of reference for teaching and/or motivational purposes.

"I think they know what happened in Game 5 in the first 10 minutes," he said. "We've talked about it many times during the course of the year."
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Posted On Thursday, 04.21.2011 / 5:15 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Knuble skates, status for Game 5 in question

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Mike Knuble skated before Washington Capitals practice on Thursday, but when he might return for the team remains to be determined.

Knuble missed Game 4 of Washington's Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with an unspecified injury, but it is believed to be a problem with his right hand/wrist. He was hit by a Mike Green shot during Game 3 and after scoring a goal seconds later, immediately took off his glove to check on his hand/wrist before celebrating.

"I call myself day-to-day," Knuble told reporters who were asked by a team representative not to ask questions about the specifics of his injury. "You've got to do your best to stay in shape and keep your conditioning or whatever.

"[Game 5] is up in the air -- we won't know until tomorrow or maybe even Saturday morning, Saturday game time."

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau also said Knuble is day-to-day. He was the team's third-leading goal scorer in the regular season with 24.

Knuble did not practice with the team for the two days leading up Game 4, and he confirmed that he didn't travel with the team to New York for the contest.

"I find myself watching the clock all day and trying to be home at the right time, trying to make sure I have my DVR set so I don't miss anything," Knuble said. "Just a weird feeling -- missing a playoff game, watching your team play is much different than missing games in the regular season. It's really hard to go through. Obviously, I was as low as they felt last night and as high as they were after, too."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.19.2011 / 7:29 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Tortorella responds to Boudreau; Rangers' new lines

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau told a radio station Monday that he felt the New York Rangers were targeting the head of defenseman Mike Green, who battled concussion problems and sat the final 20 games of the regular season.

Boudreau said Rangers defenseman Marc Staal delivered a blow to the head of Green just before Washington's Mike Knuble tied the score at 2-2 late in third period of Sunday's Game 3 at Madison Square Garden. There was no penalty on the play and there was no punishment for the hit handed down by the League.

On Tuesday, Rangers coach John Tortorella responded to those comments.

"We have confidence in the League, we have confidence in the officials that they won't be influenced by all the whining going on here right now," Tortorella said. "We're staying away from it. Our mindset is just focusing on what we need to do, how we play, play the right way, and get ready for Game 4. That's our main focus.

"Again, we have confidence in the League that this doesn't affect the series. It's a pretty good series between two pretty good teams going at it pretty hard."

Another day, another set of lines: The Rangers unveiled new lines at practice Tuesday, and if they hold to form, this is what the Capitals will be facing Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden:


The changes are with the top two lines. Basically, Ruslan Fedotenko and Vinny Prospal traded positions. The defense pairings are unchanged, although Bryan McCabe will be sporting a wicked new mustache when he takes the ice, joining Boyle and Dubinsky among those with mustaches on the roster.

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.19.2011 / 3:11 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Knuble doesn't practice, but expects to play

Mike Knuble did not practice for the second straight day, but Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said he expects the 38-year-old forward to play Wednesday in Game 4 at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.

Boudreau called it a maintenance day for Knuble. When asked if it was related to Knuble looking at his hand of scoring Washington's second goal Sunday, Boudreau replied, "That's why it is called a maintenance day."

Knuble has spent most of the past two seasons on the team's top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. He was third on the team with 24 goals in the regular season -- his eighth straight campaign with more than 20 goals.

"He's a big part of our game and if he's out, it is a big loss," Marco Sturm said. "I think we played pretty good all year when guys are out – guys are jumping in. everyone has to do their job there and work maybe a little bit harder."

Jason Chimera replace Knuble on the top line for practice Tuesday, while Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle both rotated in on the third line. It is possible Fehr or Beagle could play and Chimera could be a healthy scratch if Knuble is indeed going to play, but Chimera is the only player not among the top six forwards who has a goal in this series.

Fehr said he "has no idea" if he's going to play or not after being a healthy scratch the first two games. He was one of the team's most effective forwards against Montreal last postseason, finishing third on the team with three goals.

"He's coming on the trip so there's a chance," Boudreau said of Fehr's chances of playing.
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Posted On Monday, 04.18.2011 / 2:49 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Time for Neuvirth to show resilience

Michal Neuvirth handled the pressure of his first NHL postseason start very well. Now the Washington Capitals will find out how their 23-year-old rookie bounces back from his first NHL postseason defeat.

Neuvirth made 32 saves in a 3-2 loss Sunday to the New York Rangers in Game 3 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. He has still only allowed four goals in nearly 10 periods of postseason hockey, but the Capitals will need a strong performance from him again if the Rangers carry momentum from their victory into Game 4 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

"He allowed the one goal [to Vinny Prospal]," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought the [Erik] Christensen goal there wasn't much he could do and the third goal, it bounces off two of our guys and into the net. They had 35 shots so I think he was pretty stellar for the most part. I think he's handling this tremendously. He's calm as a cucumber."

Part of "this" Boudreau was alluding to was how the Rangers have ratcheted up their presence in front of and around Neuvirth's crease. Christensen was called for goaltender interference near the end of the second period, but there were several other times when Neuvirth had bodies in his way or on top of him during post-whistle scrums.

How players can protect their young goalie in those circumstances is a bit tricky.

"It is a double-edge sword, because if we start doing something we're going to start getting retaliation penalties, which is what you tell the guys not to do," Boudreau said. "You're hoping that they're being called. If it is not called, there is not much you can do without getting involved in 4-on-4 situations and taking guys out.

"Prospal went in there. [Sean] Avery fell into him. [Brandon] Prust went into him on purpose and wasn't called. They're doing all of that stuff to try and get him off his game, but the good thing about Michal is it doesn't seem to effect him. It is there and we have to protect the goalies -- both the team and the officials."
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Posted On Monday, 04.18.2011 / 2:11 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Extra rest is just fine with the Rangers

The schedule is a little quirky in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Rangers and Capitals. The teams are receiving two days of rest between Sunday's Game 3 and Wednesday's Game 4 and will get two more days off before Saturday afternoon's Game 5 back in D.C.

Rangers coach John Tortorella doesn't consider it ideal, but he believes it can be used to as a positive.

"I know if you ask me personally, I'd rather play every other day," Tortorella said. "You need to try to find the best way to use it. And we have our process we'll go through. Players want to play, but we can't do nothing about it, so we'll go about our business.

"You get some rest. It depends on what guys are nicked up, if any. We're pretty healthy mentally, pretty healthy physically. You try to turn it into a positive. It's the schedule and you go about your business."

Players were mostly indifferent about the extra rest. Would they prefer to play Tuesday night? Sure, but it's not that big a deal to them.

"It gives us a little rest, and that's good too," forward Ruslan Fedotenko said. "I go with the flow. Day between, that's great. Two days between, that's good too. I'm not thinking too much. Just regroup and get ready for the next game."

Power play woes: Even with a goal by Erik Christensen in Sunday's win, Tortorella didn't see much difference in the struggling power play.

"Erik scores a big goal for us, but we've got some work to do," Tortorella said.

Tortorella was asked what was better about the power play, besides the fact they scored.

"Not too much," Tortorella said. "We scored a goal. That's what's better."

The Rangers are 2-for-38 in their last 13 games and 1-for-11 in the series with the Caps on the power play.

 Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Sunday, 04.17.2011 / 8:21 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Christensen talks about goal; referee breaks leg

NEW YORK -- It's a shot few players can make, and Erik Christensen made it.

He held the puck near the goal-line in the right-wing corner, unharrassed by Capitals defenders. Realizing he had an opening to shoot, he took it and fired a perfect wrist shot through the smallest of openings over the shoulder of Caps goaltender Michal Neuvirth to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead early in the second period.

"I just picked my head up quick and tried to surprise him," Christensen said. "It was a sharp angle and (Derek Stepan was right in front and said he heard it whizzing by his head. I wanted to put something on the net and found no one was challenging me, so I figure any shot's a good shot. I look over and he's kind of going down low, maybe expecting I'm going to throw it across the street. In the end I tried to whip it at him and fortunately it hit the spot."

On a team that doesn't have many skilled offensive players, Christensen is one of them. Coach John Tortorella has said Christensen is capable of scoring goals like that, and on Sunday he proved him right.

"I think he knows I'm capable of scoring that goal," Christensen said. "He'd like to see it more often. Whether I'm playing a lot or playing a little, I'll always be ready. As of late, 5-on-5 ice time has dropped. So I have to make sure when I'm on that power play, I make the most of it. It keeps me on the power play."

Christensen had 9:03 of ice time Sunday, 4:30 of which came on the power play. Christensen averaged 12:45 of ice time during the regular season, 2:07 of which came on the power play.

Referee leaves with injury: It was a day to forget for the referees at Madison Square Garden, and it had nothing to do with calls on the ice.

During the first period, referee Tim Peel was hit with a slap shot. He was able to stay in the game, but fellow referee Chris Rooney wasn't so lucky. He suffered a broken ankle after tripping over the Washington Capitals net during the second period and had to leave the game.

He was tended to by the Rangers training staff, but eventually limped to the dressing room. Players were allowed to leave their benches and stretch their legs during the 10-minute delay while standby official Frederick L'Ecuyer limbered up and took over for Rooney.

L'Ecuyer got through the rest of the game unharmed.

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Posted On Sunday, 04.17.2011 / 1:47 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Tortorella pregame: 'We're not far off'

NEW YORK -- Rangers coach John Tortorella met with the media about two hours before Sunday afternoon's Game 3. He didn't reveal specifics of his lineup, but said the same personnel would be employed agains the Capitals. Steven Eminger and Mats Zuccarello will be scratched.

He also touched on how his young players are handling their first Stanley Cup Playoffs, the energy of the home crowd, and the importance of getting a break and scoring a goal.

Q: Do you think the other team's been taking real care to hit Staal all the time?

Tortorella: I'd do it. That's part of playoff hockey.

Q: Is there any way to slow it down?

Tortorella: No. That's part of playoff hockey. We're trying to do the same thing with some of their people. I thought the second game was more physical than the first. You have to play through it. Especially with the new rules, they're targets. You can't hold up. Teams play that way. They try to put it into areas and bang. Do we want our guys hit? No. But I think it's the responsibility of the players also if they can get away from it, get away from it. But you still have to make a play. That's part of winning in playoff hockey. It's taking a hit to make a play.

Q: When you're having trouble scoring, is the first goal more magnified today?

Tortorella: I'm not going to get into magnifying, back up against the wall, that stuff. We're going to play. We know what we have to do, and we're going to try and play.

Q: From Game 1 to Game 2, especially with some of your young guys, did you see a maturation from that first NHL playoff experience? Maybe McDonagh and Sauer in particular. Could you see growth in a short period of time?

Tortorella: I think those two have right from the get-go have just…it's really encouraging. I looked at McDonagh and I think he has to go through a little process where -- it shouldn't have been a penalty -- but that's going to happen.  You can't take a risk. If you're not playing between the whistles, you're taking a risk. I think he'll learn there. But the way he's handled himself, I think he's got some fight to him. You can just see his attitude. I think he has the right attitude. Michael Sauer, the same thing. They've been two of our best as far as handling their first situation. I felt Step played better. Artie Anisimov…you know, I think there is some nerves. But I think as each game goes by, they are getting better. Now it's a new animal coming into MSG here, home building. I'm anxious to see how they react. This is all part of the process of building a team. So I'm glad we're here, and I think we will be better as we keep on going through the series.

Q: Are there parts of their game you can see per shift, per period, per game? I know it's early, but the seeing of it from where you stand.

Tortorella: Improving?

Q: Yeah.

Tortorella: I'll go to Artie because he just sticks out. I thought he really struggled at times and then in the second half of Game 2, he started being more physical. He just seemed more involved. He's an important guy for us. He's a young man that has been given quite a bit of responsibility as a center ice man on this team. I just saw him start growing a little bit in understanding that your game comes in when you start getting around the puck and hitting people. It's very important for Step, also. Step has gone through not a lot of downs, a couple downs early in the season, but once he started getting involved with the body, his game follows behind it. It always is. I think they're improving. I think they'll be…I'm looking forward to them today. Not only those guys, but I think our team is really ready to jump in here and try to grab some momentum.

Q: How do you get to the inside a little bit more? Will this building change things? How can you get your team to the inside to the net?

Tortorella: That's a willingness. It doesn't matter which building. You can be out on the pond playing. It's a matter of trying to get there. It's a matter of trying to funnel shots there to allow people to get there. The series is 2-0, but it's been, at least from my standpoint, either way, it could change. It changes. I think at times, I think we've defended pretty well. Our biggest key is just to get something good to happen for us offensively. I look at their second goal the other night, which was a huge goal. We're defending their power play the right way. It deflects off of Gilroy's skate and right onto Arnott's stick, and he buries it. That's a huge goal. I'm hoping something like that happens for us. Because we're not far off. They can't win the series today, we can't win the series today. But we can grab some momentum. And I think that's the most important thing when you're involved in a series, is trying to get some momentum on your side.

Q: When you look at home-ice advantage, how much of it do you think is the ability to match up as you want, and how much of it is the energy in the building?

Tortorella: You know, the matchups, for me, they're a little overfplayed. They're going to get their matchups. If they want to get their two young defensemen against Gaborik, they'll get'em, if they really work hard at it. We did the same thing with Staal and Girardi. I know we like to talk a lot about those matchups, but as far we're concerned, energy is a very important thing. But you have to be really careful when you come into your home building. You need to have some discipline too. You need to control it, also. I don't need to speak to the team about playing with energy today. It's not happening. I thought after Game 1, we didn't have enough energy. I don't think we had enough jam. Game 2, we were better.  I won't have to talk about that today. It's a matter of keeping it under control because you can't put yourself in a bad spot and allow a power-play goal to hurt you.

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Posted On Saturday, 04.16.2011 / 3:05 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Boudreau coy on center swap

Nicklas Backstrom and Jason Arnott switched places in the middle of the top two lines for the Washington Capitals at practice Saturday. Bruce Boudreau downplayed the move, blaming a wardrobe malfunction, but his past history suggests otherwise.

Arnott was between Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble on the team's top line for practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex while Backstrom skated between Marco Sturm and Alexander Semin.

"Actually, they just put on the wrong jerseys so I left them out there for practice," Boudreau said. "I could have changed it, but I knew we were only doing one drill that anything to do with it, so I just left it."

Boudreau has dropped the "wrong jersey" rationale a few times during his tenure as Capitals coach. He's also used the term "just wanted to see what it looked like" when he switches lines around. The deal is this: when Boudreau tries to downplay a line change, it has almost always ended up happening for the next game.

If Backstrom is not skating with the second line against the New York Rangers for Game 3 on Sunday at Madison Square, it might be the first time Boudreau was speaking the truth on the "wrong jersey" rationale since he became the team's coach in November 2007.

"It doesn't matter I think who we play with," Backstrom said. "There are such good players on this team. It is up to the coach to decide who we play with."

This is nothing new for Backstrom -- Boudreau has dropped him to the second line to play with Semin on several occasions during the postseason in the previous three years. Those two combined to have a great series against Philadelphia in 2008, carrying the Washington offense as the Capitals rallied to force Game 7 after being down 3-1.

It worked pretty well again against the Rangers in 2009. Both years Backstrom was switching places with Sergei Fedorov. Now Boudreau has another dependable veteran in Arnott who he can put with Ovechkin and force John Tortorella to decide which duo he wants to put Marc Staal and Dan Girardi on the ice against.

Tortorella has the last change but the choice between deploying his top pairing against Ovechkin or Backstrom/Semin is not an easy one. That is, of course, if Boudreau follows through and makes the switch for the start of Game 3.

"Yeah, I am [used to it]," Backstrom said. "It is nothing wrong with it. Sometimes you have to I guess. ... They're both good players. I just play where coach tells me to."
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Posted On Friday, 04.15.2011 / 11:47 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Avery provides boost, but outcome remains same

WASHINGTON -- The consensus following Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Capitals on Friday night was the New York Rangers played a far better game than they did in Game 1.

They had a much improved first period, outshooting the Capitals 13-7 while controlling the territorial play, something coach John Tortorella made a point of emphasis between Games 1 and 2.

They held the Capitals to a mere 18 shots after allowing 29 in nearly 80 minutes of Game 1.

But at the end of Game 2, the Rangers were once again on the losing end, falling 2-0 after the Caps scored twice in 1:57 early in the second period to ruin what was a very solid effort by the Rangers up until that point.

"It's a valuable lesson, that's for sure," Tortorella said. "The second shift of the second period, we had some turnovers. It doesn't cause the goal, but I think it causes a momentum change right away in the second period. For about five or six minutes there, they surged on us. They scored a goal, we take a penalty, get an unfortunate bounce, and that's a big part of the game.

"I thought for most of the game, we played much better than the other night, much more of the style we need to play. We got hurt by a surge tonight. Good teams do it. We're going to have to try to get one ourselves as we go to our building."

The lucky bounce came during a Capitals power play. Defenseman Mike Green had his shot from the right point blocked, but it deflected to Jason Arnott as if it was a perfect cross-ice pass, and Arnott buried it to make it 2-0.

"They got a little lucky bounce there and took advantage of it," said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 16 saves. "We have to stay positive. We need everyone to play their absolute best to have a chance."

Inserting Sean Avery into the lineup in place of Mats Zuccarello seemed to have the desired effect. He played 10:22, much of it in the third period, and was his usually pesky self.

Avery could be found bumping with goaltender Michal Neuvirth and scrapping after the play with any nearby Capitals player who didn't appreciate the tactic. Avery even had three shots, third most on the Rangers.

Tortorella liked what he saw from Avery, so it's probable he'll stay in the lineup for Sunday afternoon's Game 3

"I thought in the third period, that was a pretty good line," Tortorella said of Avery, Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust. "They gave us some zone time. I thought we did some really good forechecking with that line."

The glaring problem for the Rangers was once again the lack of scoring. They have just 1 goal in the series and missed on a couple of golden opportunities in the third period that could have cut the lead in half. The best scoring chance came when Prust found the puck on his stick with Neuvirth out of position, but his shot missed the mostly open net.

"You have to score a goal," Tortorella said. "We just have no room for any mistake when you don’t score a goal or score just one. That's what's happened.

"I'm not discouraged with the hockey club. We need to release some…just as far as scoring a goal. We need to just relax, play the way we did for a number of minutes tonight and just find a way to bang a couple in."

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Posted On Friday, 04.15.2011 / 1:21 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Wideman back skating for Capitals

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Four days ago Dennis Wideman was released after a nearly two-week stay in the hospital to recover from a hematoma and compartment syndrome in his leg, but he was on the ice here Friday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

Wideman did some light skating in a track suit before his teammates went on the ice for their morning skate. He hasn't played since hurting his right leg March 29 against Carolina after a collision with Tuomo Ruutu.

"A really surprising sign, but a very good sign," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He skated for about 15 minutes and felt pretty good, so maybe my assessment of three weeks was a little premature.”

Boudreau had previously said he didn't expect Wideman to be available until the second round at the earliest, but he said Friday it is possible the trade deadline acquisition is back before then.

"Sooner than later," Boudreau said. "Who knows? Depending on what kind of shape he can get into in a hurry and how long this series [extends], it might even be in this round.

"There was no damage to the muscle and that’s why he’s able to be out here doing what he’s doing. That’s a really good sign -- and it shows how tough he is."

Washington's other injured defenseman, Tom Poti, was back on the ice in full gear after take a day off. Poti hasn't played since Jan. 12 because of a groin injury. Boudreau said Thursday that his other six defensemen (not including Wideman) are playing so well that it might take injuries for Poti get back in the lineup when he is pronounced fit to play.

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 3:26 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Young Rangers get passing grade from Tortorella

Eight Rangers got their first taste of postseason hockey Wednesday, and without going through each individual player to break down their performance, John Tortorella said he liked what he saw from his young guys.

"Overall, the young guys, I was happy," Tortorella said. "Some guys in certain parts of the game, you could see there was some anxiousness, but that's to be expected. This is why we are happy that we're in. This gets some of the young group some experience. They'll be better the next game. They're going to have to be, because they're a big part of our club. A big part of our success is our youth."

A few of the highlights for players making their debuts included: All-Star Derek Stepan was on the ice for Alex Ovechkin's tying goal and lost his stick on the play, but his 25:07 was third-most among Rangers forwards.

Lineup change? -- Tortorella isn't about to give away lineup information during the postseason, but it's possible Mats Zuccarello could be a scratch for Game 2.

He played just 7:34 during Game 1 and was sharing time on a line with Sean Avery during Thursday's practice.

These are obviously subject to change, but these were the line combinations at Verizon Center this afternoon:


Avery was a healthy scratch quite a bit down the stretch, but Tortorella may want to change things up after a Game 1 loss.

Defending well -- While a couple of the offensive lines were shuffled a bit, don't expect to see much changed in terms of line combinations on the blue line.

Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer played the bulk of the minutes, but Bryan McCabe was acquired at the trade deadline of his power-play talents and Matt Gilroy scored the Rangers' lone goal. Overall, Tortorella was pleased with his club's overall play defensively.

"I thought for a lot of the game, our defending wasn't bad," Tortorella said. "I wouldn't say it was great. We're going to have to be better. I thought our best period was our third period. I thought we were playing our best hockey with the lead.

"I thought for good portions of the game, it was good. But it's going to have to be better as the series keeps on going."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 1:54 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Poti 'sore', misses practice

Washington Capitals defenseman Tom Poti has had a frustrating year because of a reoccurring groin injury, and his return might not be anytime in the near future.

The Capitals had an optional practice Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, but Poti was missing because coach Bruce Boudreau said he was "sore" after his on-ice workout Wednesday. Poti was playing in a game of sideways 3-on-3 with the guys who would eventually be healthy scratches that night for Game 1 of this series when he was involved in a collision.

Poti stayed down on the ice for a few seconds and did not appear to be comfortable when he got back up. Assistant coach Bob Woods took his place in the game.

Boudreau said there might not be a place in the lineup waiting for the veteran Poti even when he is healthy enough to play.

"He hasn't played in four months now and I think our defense is playing pretty well," Boudreau said. "So it'd be pretty hard for him, unless there's injuries, to get back in."

The Capitals have six healthy defensemen in front of Poti right now, plus trade deadline addition Dennis Wideman could be back during the second round to add another body to a crowded blueline corps.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.14.2011 / 1:09 AM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Staal faces the music

To his credit, Marc Staal didn't duck anyone Wednesday night after his mistake led to Alexander Semin's winner late in overtime.  He sat in the visiting locker room and answered every question thrown his way like the leader he's become during his time in New York.

He tried to clear the puck from his zone, but it was intercepted by Jason Arnott. He slid it to Semin, who one-timed a rocket over Henrik Lundqvist's blocker to give the Capitals a 1-0 series lead.

It was an unceremonious to a busy night for Staal, who played a game-high 33:48 while matching up with the Capitals' top line. He and partner Dan Girardi, who logged the second-most ice time in the game at 32:50, were on the ice for both Caps' goals.

"I was trying to bank it off the glass and out, and he grabbed it out of mid-air," Staal said. "Right now, it's hard to look at personal stuff. We win as a team, we lose as a team. He played a great game for us to give us a chance to win it in overtime and we were just unable to do it."

Considering the Rangers were six minutes from a win in regulation and one bounce from victory in overtime, don't expect much to change from the team's defensive leader.

"We know how we're going to be in the series," Staal said. "It's also disappointing how this one ended. We played a good game. We just couldn’t find a way to get one in overtime."

"We just have to play a few more minutes along the way and hopefully find a way to score another goal when we're up 1-0," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 2:59 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Capitals ready to rely on 'unflappable' Neuvirth

ARLINGTON, Va. -- No player in the Washington Capitals dressing room has spent more time with Michal Neuvirth than defenseman Karl Alzner, so it fair to say he's got a pretty good handle on the goaltender's personality.

"He's seems to be kind of be unflappable," Alzner said. "He's very calm on and off the ice. I think that in this situation, that's going to be pretty good for him. It has proven well for him in the playoffs in Hershey a couple of times. He's just a guy that if he gets scored on, he doesn't really let it get to him too much."

That demeanor will be put to the test Wednesday night at Verizon Center when Neuvirth is in net for his first career NHL playoff game against the New York Rangers. Neuvirth and fellow 2006 draft pick Semyon Varlamov have spent this season jostling for the No. 1 job in Washington, with fellow young netminder Braden Holtby also squeezing his way into the competition.

Varlamov entered the year with more NHL postseason experience than Neuvirth, but the 23-year-old from the Czech Republic was able to stay healthy longer and that proved to play a big role in the derby.

"Right now, he's played way more games. He's won 27 games for us," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's not my thought only -- it is a collaboration of all the coaches. We thought he was the guy who has played the most games down the stretch and he's played the big games down the stretch and he's won the big games that we've needed to win."

While Varlamov has played in 19 postseason games for Boudreau, twice beginning the playoffs as Jose Theodore's backup before supplanting the veteran, Neuvirth has built a formidable postseason resume of his own. He helped Plymouth to an Ontario Hockey League title and Memorial Cup berth in 2007, and has won back-to-back Calder Cup championships with Washington's AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.

Neuvirth was named the Calder Cup MVP in 2009, and he might have been even more valuable in 2010. He won 30 postseason games in that span, and defeated some elite goaltending prospects (Tuukka Rask, Cory Schneider and Jonathan Bernier) along the way.

"We were in control of every series pretty much the first year, but the second year not so much," defenseman John Carlson said. "We went down to Manchester, we were down to Texas, but he kept us in there and made it so we could battle back and win.

"He's a big-game goalie. He likes to be in that moment. He elevates his game when he's in that moment, it seems. For a defenseman it makes you feel pretty comfortable. He's had so much success and you feel good in front of him."

Boudreau was once Hershey's coach and maintains strong relationships with members of the Bears organization. He spent parts of those two Calder Cup runs watching at Giant Center with Hershey general manager Doug Yingst and other personnel evaluators in the organization after the Captials were knocked out of the NHL playoffs.

"I saw a lot of games in the playoffs last year," Boudreau said. "His demeanor when it is crunch time was outstanding. Championships are not only very difficult to win at any level, it takes something special to win them. He's done both. I don't classify him as a rookie. This is his third year pro. We thought he was our guy."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 2:15 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Wideman out for series; Caps to match lines?

WASHINGTON -- Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau offered a grim outlook Wednesday for defenseman Dennis Wideman's chances of playing in this series against the Rangers.

"I don’t expect him back for this series, but he’s a really determined young man," Boudreau said. "He’s coming along. He’s walking now. He’s rehabbing it pretty hard right now. He’s a lot better today than he was yesterday. I don’t know if that means anything. If that rate of recovery is good, then it wouldn’t surprise me if in three weeks he’d be ready."

Boudreau didn't get into specifics when he came to matchups for Game 1, but he said he's got an idea for how he wants to go about it.

"We’ll see how it works out," Boudreau said. "Listen, it is so easy to match defense against forwards. Whether you are at home or on the road, it is very simple quite frankly. If they’re matching somebody against one of our lines, especially when the D can go out every second pair and they can get off the ice on any won or lost faceoff in the neutral zone, we’re not going to be too worried about that. It is forwards matching up against forwards that we’ve got an idea of what we want to do."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.13.2011 / 2:02 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2011 ECQF: Washington-New York Live Blog

Tortorella: 'By no means do we fear them'

WASHINGTON -- Rangers coach John Tortorella has never been one to talk about the opposition, be it in the regular season or the playoffs. His mantra is the focus remains on what's happening in his locker room, not his opponents'.

As the No. 8 seed in this series with the Caps, the Rangers are unquestionably the underdogs. But Tortorella made sure to let everyone know about his team's mindset entering the Wednesday's Game 1 at Verizon Center.

"We respect this hockey club," Tortorella said. "By no means do we fear them."

And why would they? The Rangers won the season series 3-1 and delivered thumpings of 6-0 and 7-0 along the way. Of course, Tortorella said none of that matters now.

"Doesn't matter," Tortorella said. "I'm just going to talk about our club. I think that's the most important thing. The way we're trying to go about our business is just take care of our business each and every day. Washington's gone through their process, we're going to go through our process and that's our main concentration."

The Rangers have had their share of woes at Madison Square Garden the past two seasons, but they've been solid on the road. They finished tied for the ninth-most road points this season at 49, but of course, none of that matters to Tortorella.

"We don't care where we're playing. We're good," Tortorella said. "We're good with our mindest, we're good in our skin. We're just going to play. We need to play. We're ready to play. The road, away, we have an understanding how we're going to play, what's expected out of the opposing team, and now, we'll let the players play.

"There's not going to be a bunch of changes from this hockey club. We know who we are, and we're going to try to be who we are. I think that's the most important thing."

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Quote of the Day

I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.

— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie