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NHL Insider

Ovechkin-less Caps brace for test from Flyers

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 2:13 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- The question posed to Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom went something like this: Does your style or mindset change knowing Alex Ovechkin is not here?

"We realize the importance of the next two months, not hitting individual goals in the regular season but the importance of the team aspect, so some time off for him is going to be good. He'll be ready to fire when he comes back."
-- Brooks Laich on Ovechkin

Backstrom raised his eyebrows ever so slightly and then made a facial expression that was more telling than any long-winded verbal response he might have given.

The answer, according to Backstrom, clearly is no.

Other than the possible return of forward Eric Fehr to the lineup, the Capitals don't plan on changing anything Tuesday night when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center in a nationally-televised clash (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2) between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. 
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Visit by Caps puts Flyers in a playoff mindset

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 1:46 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- No offense to the Thrashers, Maple Leafs, Oilers and Panthers, but the Philadelphia Flyers players admit there's a different mindset going into Tuesday's visit by the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2).
 
For the first time in a month, the Flyers will play consecutive games against teams in their respective conference's top eight.
 
It's a big change from their previous 11 games, when they faced teams in playoff spots just twice; however, they went 5-4-2 in that stretch, and played some of their worst hockey of the season.
 
"When we struggled, I don't know if it was lack of effort or lack of focus," defenseman Braydon Coburn told NHL.com. "I don't think it was lack of effort. I know guys were busting their humps. I think it was lack of execution and focus."
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Reasoner's brother becomes Panthers' practice goalie

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 1:17 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- With Scott Clemmensen unable to practice Tuesday morning at Madison Square Garden due to a lower-body injury that proved to be worse than originally thought, the Florida Panthers needed to find an emergency goaltender and didn't have much time to do so.

Luckily for the Panthers, Marty Reasoner knew of someone with goaltending experience working in the financial district -- his brother, Adam.

"It was kind of a last-minute thing," Marty said. "It was probably almost 10:30 when I realized we didn't have a goalie going out, so I said, 'Hey, I know a guy pretty well who might be able to fit in.'

"So I gave him a call and texted him. It was a pretty impressive turnaround. He was here in a half-hour."
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Applying lessons, Caps focus on process, not results

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 9:53 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- How important is winning the Eastern Conference to the Washington Capitals?

It's a fair question, particularly since the Capitals finished tops in the Southeast Division and among the top three in the East the past three seasons only to be relegated to postseason heartache each time. The club was eliminated in the conference quarterfinals in 2008 and '10 and dropped a thrilling seven-game series to Pittsburgh in the conference semifinals in 2009.

Based on the team's performance of late -- 10 victories in 11 games -- you'd assume winning the conference is a priority.

"Really, it's not that important," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said a few days before his team travelled to Philadelphia to play the Flyers for first place in the East.

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Penguins concur with League on Cooke punishment

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 6:04 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

With the continued focus on head hits and the call to increase punishment for repeat offenders coming out of last week's General Manager Meetings, the supplementary discipline handed out to Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke's for an elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in Sunday's game came as little surprise.

Cooke, who received a five-minute elbowing major and game misconduct on the play, was suspended by the League on Monday for the final 10 games of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, a decision with which even his own team could not find fault.
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Better vibe around Avs following victory

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 5:17 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The Avalanche players had a little more jump than usual during practice Monday, 36 hours after posting their first win in 3 1/2 weeks, one that snapped a winless streak that reached 10 games.

"When you win the game is more fun. When you have a stretch like we had, it can wear on you. It's one of those things where the more it goes on, the more it's in your head. You almost have to get out of your own way sometimes."
-- John-Michael Liles

"I think just getting that first win, now the guys can breathe again," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said following the workout here at South Suburban Family Sports Center. "You could even tell today at practice, as much as we've been trying to keep positive, you can tell the guys -- I don't want to use the word loose -- but they certainly had a little more energy out there."

The Avalanche were in an 0-9-1 rut before Saturday's 3-2 shootout win in Edmonton, where rookie Ryan Stoa scored in the fourth round for the lone shootout goal and goalie Brian Elliott stopped 31 of 33 shots through regulation and overtime.

"It's nice to win," Sacco said. "That's what this League is all about. It's been a difficult time, no question, but I thought the guys deserved that win."
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Flames running out of time in hunt for playoff spot

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 4:00 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

In the jam-packed Western Conference, where holding onto a playoff spot near the cut-off point has been about as easy as securing hold of a greased pig, the Calgary Flames look like a team about to let their season slip away.

The Flames used a 22-6-6 run that started at the end of December to climb from 14th to fifth in the conference as recently as March 9. But they're now in the middle of a 1-3-1 stretch as they enter Monday's pivotal game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center (10:30 p.m. ET, GCL) in 10th place in the West with 84 points, one point out of eighth.

Working against the Flames is the fact that after Monday's game, they will have played three more games than the Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks, the two teams right in front of them in the standings. The Flames will play their 75th game of the season Monday, which will be either three or two more than every team that is ahead of them by two points or fewer in the standings.

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'Nagging injury' means Ovi to sit one game

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 3:05 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The news on Alex Ovechkin came early Monday, before the first whistle blew at either the Kettler Capitals Iceplex or the Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone. The Capitals announced on their website that Ovechkin was battling a nagging injury and would not be making the trip to Philadelphia for Tuesday's nationally televised game (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2).

It will be the first game Ovechkin will miss this season, and the surprising news obviously gave way to questions.

How long has his injury been bothering him? When will he be able to play again? How serious are we talking here?

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Wings' injuries will force Salei back into action

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 2:36 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- Ruslan Salei initially thought he'd sit out Monday night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 

"I haven't heard one player in all my years complain (about) too much ice time. We've got enough players."
-- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock

Instead, the Detroit Red Wings veteran defenseman will be pressed into action at Joe Louis Arena against the Penguins (7:30 p.m. Versus, TSN2, RIS) after missing a week to be with his wife in California for the birth of their third child.
 
The reason: minor injuries to forwards Pavel Datsyuk (lower body soreness), Johan Franzen (groin) and Jiri Hudler (upper body soreness). Veteran goalie Chris Osgood (groin surgery) also isn't ready to be Jimmy Howard's back-up yet, which leaves Detroit with a financial conundrum considering their limited space under the League's hard salary cap.
 
Joey MacDonald is currently backing up Howard, which means there's no further room under the cap to call anyone up from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League to replace the injured forwards. Therefore, Salei will be pressed into action in his first day back, possibly logging time at defense and forward on the fourth line with Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader.
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Capitals never stopped believing in Boudreau

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 10:09 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

"Bluntly, coaches get fired because they've lost their team. To a man, the players like playing for Bruce and respect him as a hockey person. When it was going bad and he changed the system and get buy-in of it, you didn't hear any of the players really whining or complaining. They just believed. To me, that was an unbelievably positive sign. Now we're bearing the fruit of that."
-- Ted Leonsis

For the better part of three years, Bruce Boudreau was revered in the Washington, D.C., area for his part in molding the Washington Capitals into one of the NHL's elite teams.

Hockey fans in and around the District loved Boudreau for his attacking philosophy, candor and folksy charm, manifested in a series of humorous commercials. Most importantly, he won. In a sports town with three other struggling professional franchises, Boudreau made the Capitals extremely successful on the ice and at the box office.

With that success, however, has come increased expectations, and when his team struggled in the middle of this season, Boudreau faced negativity from the fan base he largely was responsible for building to such impressive numbers.
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Quote of the Day

It's something that you don't really envision starting this way, but when you put the work in you don't feel like it's unwarranted. You definitely don't envision it unfolding this way, but you do think you can be successful at this level.

— Senators goalie Andrew Hammond, who defeated the Jets on Wednesday to improve to 6-0-1 since making his first NHL start on Feb. 18