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Posted On Tuesday, 05.03.2011 / 11:45 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Caps banged up

TAMPA, Fla. -- Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green did not play in the final 18:37 of Game 3 on Tuesday night with what coach Bruce Boudreau called a lower-body injury. Green sat at the end of the bench in the final minutes of the team's 4-3 loss but did not go back on the ice.

If Green is not able to play Wednesday night in Game 4, the Capitals will likely turn to Sean Collins, who played four games in the regular season for the team. Veterans Dennis Wideman, who is not with the team on this road trip, and Tom Poti have been out with long-term injuries but have been skating in an effort to return. Boudreau had hoped he might have Wideman available by the end of this series. Tyler Sloan could also be an option to replace Green.

Washington forward Eric Fehr also did not finish this game. He was checked into the boards in the third period and skated to the bench with his right arm dangling at his side. He went right to the dressing room and did not return. Fehr had surgeries on both shoulders two summers ago, and had a shoulder injury earlier this season.

If Fehr can't play, Matt Hendricks would likely return to the lineup. He's been a healthy scratch since Mike Knuble returned from injury for Game 2 of this series.
Posted On Tuesday, 05.03.2011 / 11:05 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Fleming awake, alert after brain surgery

TAMPA, Fla. -- It was a great night all around for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

Not only did they take a commanding 3-0 lead in this best-of-seven series, but assistant coach Wayne Fleming is alert and talking after undergoing surgery earlier in the day to remove a malignant brain tumor.

Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher confirmed to reporters after Tuesday night's 4-3 win in Game 3 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Washington Capitals at the St. Pete Times Forum that Fleming is awake and alert.

"It was the first thing we talked about with players after the game," Boucher said. "We didn't even talk about the win. I did get information from (Lighting GM) Steve (Yzerman) that Wayne's wife had talked to Steve and said that the operation was over. He was awake and alert, which is something extremely positive for that type of operation that he had to go through. For us, any positive note on Wayne is big for us."

The Lightning rallied from a 3-2 deficit by scoring twice in a 24-second span early in the third period. Steven Stamkos tied things up with a laser at 5:23 before Ryan Malone redirected Nate Thompson's feed past Michal Neuvirth for what proved to be the game-winner.

Afterwards, Stamkos -- who is now 4-2-6 in 10 playoff games -- dedicated the victory to his ill coach.

"We're obviously very excited about that," said Stamkos, who, along with his teammates, was informed of the positive news immediately following the game. "It's still a long battle for him and he's a fighter. All we can do now is pray for him and his family. It was a big win for him tonight."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
Posted On Tuesday, 05.03.2011 / 1:55 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Gagne, Kubina still out for Lightning

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher managed to crack a joke when asked about the statuses of forward Simon Gagne and defenseman Pavel Kubina for Tuesday night.

"Simon and Kubina are not going to play. If I want them to play tomorrow, I better start praying," Boucher said Tuesday morning at the St. Pete Times Forum, where Game 3 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal will be held in just a few hours. "They're day-to-day -- except for today and tomorrow."

The Lightning lost both Gagne and Kubina during Friday night's Game 1 at the Verizon Center. Gagne fell awkwardly early in the first period due to a hit from Scott Hannan and his head struck the ice. Kubina was injured in the second period after being hit by Jason Chimera -- a hit Kubina declined to comment on Tuesday morning.

"It's getting better every day," Kubina said. "I'm not playing tonight. We'll see about tomorrow."

Randy Jones took Kubina's spot in the lineup Sunday night and started the play that led to Vincent Lecavalier's goal in overtime. Jones will be in the lineup again tonight, as will Blair Jones, who replaced Gagne on Sunday.
Posted On Tuesday, 05.03.2011 / 1:23 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Boudreau sticking with Neuvirth

Bruce Boudreau has switched goaltenders the past two postseasons when his team has fallen behind early in the first round. This year his Washington Capitals are down 2-0 to Tampa Bay in the second round, but he is sticking with Michal Neuvirth.

"Nope," Boudreau said when asked if he was contemplating a change in goal. "We're very comfortable with him. You look at the goals that have been scored -- they're not much he can do about them."

Neuvirth was fantastic in the first round, allowing only 8 goals in the five-game series victory against the New York Rangers, finishing with a .946 save percentage. He has allowed 3 goals on 23 shots in each of the first two games of this series (an .870 save percentage).

Two of the 6 goals have gone off one of his teammates in front of the net and in. Two have been power-play goals -- one a blistering one-timer from Vinny Lecavalier and one a rebound from a relatively unmarked Steven Stamkos. Lecavalier was all alone at Neuvirth's crease for the overtime winner in Game 2.

Given how many odd-man rushes and quality chances the Lightning have been able to create and how few the Rangers had, it isn't a stretch to say Neuvirth has played as well this series despite the inferior numbers.

"There's no reason to take [Neuvirth] out right now," Matt Bradley said. "He hasn't been our problem. Most of the goals have been fluky goals off skates that he had no chance on anyway. We have full confidence in [Neuvirth] and we're glad to see him back in there. It is a matter of us giving him a little more help and getting some goals."

Boudreau pulled Jose Theodore for Semyon Varlamov before Game 2 in 2009 and during Game 2 in 2010 when he team was falling behind the Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens. Varlamov would be the guy Boudreau goes to if he were to make a switch, but his comments make it appear Neuvirth's place in net is safe at this point.

"That has even crossed my mind I don't think," Karl Alzner said. "Everybody thinks [Neuvirth] has been playing really well for us. There have been times where there has been things he can't control out there -- bounces and stuff. I think he's been playing great. He's helping the D out a lot. He's stopping pucks. He's moving them to us. Like I said -- that wasn't even a question in my mind before."
Posted On Monday, 05.02.2011 / 3:05 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Jones steps up in Kubina's absence

TAMPA -- Randy Jones barely saw the ice in the first period Sunday night. Little did he know he'd go on to play a major role in overtime.

After receiving just two shifts in the first 20 minutes, Jones realized the Washington Capitals were in the midst of a bad line change and sent a long outlet pass to Teddy Purcell, who then fed Vincent Lecavalier for the game-winner at 6:19 of overtime as the Tampa Bay Lightning took a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series with a 3-2 victory at Verizon Center.

For Jones, it was his first game since he suffered an ankle injury back on March 7. He would have only seven more shifts after the first period, but he made his final one of the night count.

"It felt fantastic," said Jones, who replaced the injured Pavel Kubina in the lineup. "I was happy to kind of get that first period over with. I told a couple of guys my first game in the NHL was in this barn, and I think I was more nervous tonight than I was back then. It felt great to get out there and be part of it again and coming out with a 'W.'

Bad line changes have been a problem for several teams during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not only was Purcell open for Jones' long pass at the Washington blue line, but Lecavalier was then standing all alone in front of Michal Neuvirth, and the Lightning's captain had plenty of time to flip the puck over the Caps' goaltender for what was his second goal of the night.

"That's something we emphasize as a group -- strong changes," Jones said. "We've noticed that quite a bit in the playoffs that bad changes can really cost you. It happened in that Montreal-Boston series in overtime. I think it was just a bad change. I just saw Teddy open and I wanted to get it out of our end as quick as possible. Teddy made a great play and Vinny was able to bury it."

Jones is just the latest player on this Tampa Bay roster to contribute. In Game 1, the Lightning's third line of Dominic Moore, Sean Bergenheim and Steve Downie each found the back of the net en route to a 4-2 victory. And while Jones only received 6:25 of ice time Sunday night, his ability to read the play and make the long pass to Purcell is a big reason why Tampa Bay went home with a 2-0 series lead.

"We have a lot of guys that step up," Jones said. "There's a lot of depth on this team. When guys go down, it seems like other guys kind of step up and help contribute. We had a pretty big team effort."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

Posted On Sunday, 05.01.2011 / 1:09 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Carlson expected to play

John Carlson is expected to play Sunday night for the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of this series despite missing most of the third period in Game 1 and not practicing Saturday.

Carlson participated in the morning skate Sunday and both he and coach Bruce Boudreau said he is ready to go.

"If he's playing, he's playing. I assume he's playing. I don't know the big deal – guys get banged up a little bit and it takes you 24 hours to sorta get better sometimes, and that's where he is. There's no question."

Added Carlson: "I feel great. I had a day off and now we're here. It's an exciting time of the year, too, and everyone wants to go all the time. We need this next game. This next game's real big for us."

Carlson is in his first full season in the NHL, but he was essentially Washington's No. 1 during the regular season because of injuries to Mike Green and Dennis Wideman. He had 7 goals and 37 points while averaging more than 22 minutes of ice time in the regular season, and that figure is up over 23 per game in the postseason despite missing time in Game 1.

He and Karl Alzner have formed Boudreau's most-used defensive pairing and often see the ice against the opposing team's top forwards.

"He's used to playing those minutes and he's very good at it," Alzner said. "He benefits the team tremendously offensively and defensively and he benefits me a lot. I wouldn't be able to play as good as I have played in certain games without him, because he's a big key to my success as well. He's a warrior, too, so it's a nice thing that he's gonna battle through whatever he can battle through."

Carlson has played in every game this season -- tough for any defenseman to do but he also played through a leg injury earlier in the season. He blocked a shot and walked with a limp for more than a week after the injury, but played through it in part because the team was thin on defense at the time (before trades for Scott Hannan and Wideman).

"When you play 82 games, there's gonna be times where you don't feel like playing and to still play – that makes really good hockey players really good hockey players," Boudreau said. "He's a tough man and we expect him to be in."
Posted On Saturday, 04.30.2011 / 4:13 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Gagne, Kubina listed as day-to-day

WASHINGTON -- Less than 24 hours after losing both Simon Gagne and Pavel Kubina to injuries, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher listed both players as "day-to-day" and couldn't say for sure if one, neither or both will play on Sunday night in Game 2 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Washington Capitals.

Jones missed the final 16 games of the regular season with a sprained ankle and did not play at all during Tampa Bay's seven-game series victory against Pittsburgh. Boucher, though, deemed Jones -- who last played on March 7 against these Caps -- ready if Kubina is unable to play Sunday night.

"He's ready to go," Boucher said of Jones. "He knows exactly what to do. He was playing against some top lines before he got injured."

Boucher wouldn't commit to a replacement for Gagne, who was hit by Scott Hannan 7:22 into the opening period of Game 1 and hit his head on the ice. A stretcher came out, but Gagne -- who has a history of concussions -- was able to leave the playing surface with the help of two trainers.

"I think the option of being prepared is having Option A, B and C. So, I guess we'll prepare D the rest of the day," Boucher said. "We have to prepare for different scenarios because there are really different scenarios that are possible. It's not clear cut at all."

Kubina, a defenseman who averaged 19:13 of ice time during the regular season, was hit by Jason Chimera late in the second period and was unable to return. Lightning center Steven Stamkos said he spoke with both Kubina and Gagne earlier Sunday and found them to be doing well given the circumstances.

"I haven't heard anything for sure if they're in or not," Stamkos said. "If we don't have them, it's two big holes and it's going to be tough to fill. (But) we found a way all year to fill those holes. Guys have stepped up and filled those shoes. That's the beauty about our team. We have guys that are willing to step up. Obviously we want them in the lineup and healthy as quick as possible, but we've got guys that are hungry for those roles."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
Posted On Saturday, 04.30.2011 / 3:46 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Caps hope for improved power play

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Nearly all of the main contributors on Washington's two power-play units did not skate during an optional practice Saturday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, but coach Bruce Boudreau said any adjustments will come from three video sessions between Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening for Game 2.

The Capitals went 0-for-5 with the man advantage Friday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning -- a 4-2 loss in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

"We'll go over it today, we'll go over it tomorrow [morning] and we'll go over it before the game. I think it will be more in small doses than one long thing and let them forget about it," Boudreau said. "I think the basics are the same. But it's an awful lot easier to see how they worked against you and how they've been successful against you. It gives you a better idea of how you can hopefully beat it."

Washington put only five shots on net against Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson despite all of the time on the man-advantage. The Capitals had several great chances early in the game on the PP, but those opportunities weren't there as the contest wore on.

The Capitals struggled at times to enter the offensive zone, and the Lightning collected five shots of their own while shorthanded. When they were able to get the puck into the zone and setup, there weren't enough shots on target.

"I think that kind of moment we have to play our game," Alex Ovechkin said. "We all knew what we have to do on the power play. I think we tried to do too much on the last power play because it was 3-2 and there was only five or six minutes left in the game. If this is going to happen again, we know what we have to do.

"We have the chances in the first period. When they get the lead and it is the third period and you see how they play, of course you try to do too much and something more than usual. I don't know but we're going to watch the video tomorrow, today and see what we have to do better."

Added Mike Green: "I think we executed our game plan for the most part but we just didn't put the puck in the net. I had a chance to put one away there. Semin hit the post. The thing is, that's the not the way we're going to score goals in the playoffs. We have to get pucks to the net and battle in front."
Posted On Saturday, 04.30.2011 / 3:33 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Caps hope Carlson can play in Game 2

Defenseman John Carlson didn't play much in the final 20 minutes Friday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series and he didn't practice Saturday, but Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and teammates are optimistic about his chances of being available Sunday for Game 2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I think he's - pretty good chance that he'll play tomorrow," Boudreau said. "But I'm not 100 percent sure."

Carlson was injured in a pileup near the net after he hit Tampa Bay's Nate Thompson. The 21-year-old defenseman had a great rookie season for the Capitals, essentially assuming the role of No. 1 defenseman when guys like Mike Green, Tom Poti and Dennis Wideman were injured.

He and fellow young defenseman Karl Alzner have formed Washington's most consistent pairing this season, and Boudreau has entrusted them to play against top competition despite their relative lack of age and experience.

"We've had a lot of instances where we went down to five "D," more than I've had in recent years at least," Alzner said. "It is not too bad, but John is a huge part of this team and it affects the team as a whole instead of just any individual guy.

"He's a tough guy who likes to battle and we'd definitely like to have him back. It is tough to say -- I just saw him a little bit getting treatment. That's about it. I think most guys are optimistic about him playing."

Carlson left the bench in the second period and returned for the third but took only a couple of short shifts. He stayed on the bench for a while and skated during television timeouts before eventually heading back to the dressing room for good.

Green was in a similar situation during Game 5 against the New York Rangers - he was injured and stayed on the bench. Boudreau said Green was OK to play in case of an emergency, but that wasn't the case for Carlson on Friday.

"No, yesterday he was sore," Boudreau said. "Because if we could have used him, we would have used him."

The byproduct of Carlson's absence was an added strain on Green. With Wideman injured, Carlson and Green are the team's lone consistent offensive threats on the blue line. Green played more than 11 minutes in the third period because Carlson was missing and the Capitals were down a goal and trying to find an equalizer in an eventual 4-2 loss to the Lightning.

"When you look at Mike Green's minutes at 27 minutes, it is too high," Boudreau said. "He had a great series against New York but he was playing 18-20 (minutes). Those are the kind of minutes we have to get back to."

Added Green: "I felt the same way. To be effective, especially in the playoffs, you have to keep your shifts short and be fresh. I felt like I was out there a little too much and I didn't feel like I was able to be as productive as I could have been."

If Carlson cannot play in Game 2, Boudreau said he doesn't think Poti or Wideman will be available as a replacement. Both veterans have been out for a long time with injuries but have been skating almost every day during the postseason.

The most likely is option if Carlson can't go is 27-year-old Sean Collins, who played four games near the end of the regular season after spending nearly all of the past two seasons in the American Hockey League.

Tyler Sloan has spent that time with the Capitals as a reserve defenseman, but Collins came off the ice with the rest of the Capitals expected to play Saturday while Sloan and recent call-up Patrick McNeil stayed on the ice with the other scratches and "Black Aces" from AHL Hershey.

Posted On Friday, 04.29.2011 / 1:43 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2011 ECSF: Washington-Tampa Bay Live Blog

Boucher not a believer in momentum

WASHINGTON -- The Tampa Bay Lightning staved off elimination three times in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and blanked the Pittsburgh Penguins on their sheet of ice in Game 7 to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

That would lead at least some to believe that they enter Friday night's game at Washington with a ton of momentum, right?

Perhaps, but Lightning coach Guy Boucher isn't a part of that group.

"In the playoffs, I'm a non-believer in momentum," Boucher said after the Bolts skated Friday afternoon at Verizon Center. "Every game comes back to zero and it's the team that has the most desperation. We just won three in a row, but it's a new team, a new day. We've got to start all over again. I think that's the beauty of hockey, especially in a series. There's always the next game until the last one."

Steven Stamkos agreed. Stamkos, who had 2 goals and 2 assists against the Penguins, doesn't see how the momentum gained during the opening round can find its way through the Verizon Center's doors. Basically, the Bolts will have to create momentum all over again.

"I think in the playoffs, momentum is what happens during games," Stamkos said. "I think once that game ends, everyone forgets about it -- whether you had a really good game or a really poor game. It's easy to throw games out the window come playoff time, because you know how big the next game is. This is a totally different series.

"You could say they have momentum because they handled the Rangers in five, or you could say we have momentum because we won three straight to come back to beat Pittsburgh. I don't think it's a factor heading into a brand-new series."

A series that features teams that combined for 94 victories during the regular season. That would lead some to believe that this will be an evenly-matched battle between fierce division rivals, but Boucher views the No. 1-seeded Caps as the clear-cut favorite.

"Either we see it as a threat or we see it as a challenge," Boucher said. "It's a great challenge for us. If they lose this, for them, it's a huge failure. There's a lot of pressure, but at the same time, there comes a lot of energy with pressure.

"I think it's going to be like a boxing match. They'll look at us, we'll look at them and we'll figure each other out and try to adapt as we move on."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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Quote of the Day

Yeah, I guess so. That empty-netter was pretty lucky, but I'll take it.

— Senators forward Mike Hoffman when asked if his two-goal game was a good way to celebrate his 26th birthday
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