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Caps bolster ailing defense with Alzner, Sloan

Monday, 05.04.2009 / 12:17 PM / Conference Semifinals: Washington vs. Pittsburgh

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Karl Alzner and Tyler Sloan expected to play for the Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup Playoffs Sunday night, but things didn't quite work out that way for Washington's pair of young defensemen.

Alzner and Sloan instead left Hershey while the Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were playing at Giant Center. They drove the 130 miles to the D.C. area to meet up with the big club Monday for Game 2 of the Washington's Eastern Conference Semifinal round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Alzner and Sloan, who played in a combined 56 regular-season games for Washington, were called up on an emergency basis to bolster the Caps' banged up defensive corps.

Jeff Schultz has been out with an undisclosed injury since Game 2 against the New York Rangers and now John Erskine is questionable for Game 2 against the Penguins with what appears to be a right leg injury. Tom Poti has also been nursing sore groins.

As of Monday morning, neither Alzner nor Sloan had been told if they were going to play, but Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau didn't sound optimistic when talking about Erskine, who limped onto the ice for the morning skate and limped off after taking a few strides.

"I wouldn't say he's not available; questionable is a better word," Boudreau said of Erskine, who had eight hits and two blocked shots in 18:19 of ice time Saturday in Game 1. "We've only had six healthy defensemen up here and I think we were playing with fire. Now we have John banged up a little bit, so he's going to try it and see if he can go, but we thought we better take some precautionary measures and call up a couple of guys just in case."

If Erskine can't play Monday, Boudreau knows which young call-up he would dress instead, but he didn't want to reveal his choice publicly.

Alzner, who last played a game for the Caps on Feb. 15, saw action in 30 regular-season games and had five points with a minus-1 rating. He played 13:55 in a 6-3 win against the Penguins on Jan. 14.

Sloan played in 26 games, none since Jan. 10, and had a plus-4 rating with five points and 14 penalty minutes. He did not play in any of the four regular-season games against Pittsburgh.

"These are two guys that played for us more than a couple of games and we have big faith in," Boudreau said. "They both know our systems as well as anybody, so we're real comfortable with either guy."

"Watching it last year with Pittsburgh and Detroit in the Final, I thought that would be a pretty far stretch for me to be here. Well, here it is and it's pretty neat that I'm in this position right now."
-- Karl Alzner

Alzner and Sloan were taking their pre-game nap Sunday afternoon when they got a phone call telling them they need not come to the rink. The Bears told the media they were sick.

"Twelve-hour flu," joked Alzner.

"It was kind of a different situation," added Sloan, "but when you get the call to come up here for playoffs it's thrilling."

Alzner said they quickly packed up the necessities, threw some suits in a bag and left around 8 p.m. for the two-hour drive to Arlington.

"Watching it last year with Pittsburgh and Detroit in the Final, I thought that would be a pretty far stretch for me to be here," Alzner said. "Well, here it is and it's pretty neat that I'm in this position right now."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com
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