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Capitals waiting to experience wild atmosphere

Friday, 05.01.2009 / 2:57 PM / Conference Semifinals: Washington vs. Pittsburgh

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Bruce Boudreau can spend hours going through every last detail to prepare his team to play the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday afternoon (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS). The Washington Capitals coach is good at that. He won an award for it last season.

Preparing the Capitals for the circus atmosphere that already has enveloped them is totally different. Boudreau might be good at that, too, but nobody knows for sure just yet.

"I'm sure it gets greater every series you go through, but it's one of those things that you have to experience to understand it," Boudreau said Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "I can sit here and say I'm really prepared for the intensity and everything that is going to happen, but I guess until I actually know what it is, than I'm not going to know. It will be trial by fire I guess."

For some of the Capitals - i.e. Sergei Fedorov and Chris Clark - it won't be.

But even Fedorov, who has played in the Stanley Cup Final four times, has never been a part of a series that is attracting the kind of hype that Penguins-Capitals is. The Stanley Cup Finals in '95, '97, '98 and '02 didn't have a matchup as obvious and interesting as Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin.

"It's the nature of the beast, isn't it?" Capitals defenseman Brian Pothier asked. "Obviously it's a much bigger series than them, but it's fine because I think it's great entertainment and great for sports. Not many times the two best players, two most exciting players line up and meet in the playoffs. It's welcome by me."

They hype extends to just about every stall in each dressing room, but the Capitals swear they're ready for what lies ahead.

"We have some experience and our young guys are just having fun and enjoying the moment," Pothier said. "They don't know that they are supposed to be scrutinized. They're just having a good time."

Brooks Laich went as far as saying this is the matchup the Capitals wanted all along.

"There were some smiles in our locker room when we saw who we were playing," he said. "It was kind of like, 'OK, here we go.' "

As for Boudreau, he's going to do whatever he can to prepare his guys and then he'll leave it in the hands of the key players involved to handle the hype with professionalism and a team-first mentality.

Really, what else can he do?

"I think it's pretty hard to prepare," Boudreau said. "The guys we all go to have been through it a lot more than I have."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com
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