WASHINGTON - Bruce Boudreau implied, hinted and insinuated that Jose Theodore will be in goal Saturday afternoon when the Washington Capitals host the New York Rangers in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.
The only thing the coach didn't do is say it outright. "You'll see it in the warmup," Boudreau said. "But look at me. It's not a big surprise. Theo's our No. 1 goalie."
So it's safe to assume Theodore is playing, right?
"It's never safe," Boudreau replied, "to assume anything."
Boudreau hadn't informed either goalie of his decision as of Friday's practice, saying he'll do when he feels it's appropriate. Theodore interpreted the no news as good news.
"He didn't say anything," the 2002 league MVP said, "but I'm assuming I'm in."
It would be a stunner for Boudreau to pull Theodore after one narrow post-season loss. The 32-year-old goalie did not have the best of games Wednesday night when the Rangers won 4-3, but he played over the second half of the season as Washington secured the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
Besides, with Brent Johnson out with a hip injury, the alternative is 20-year-old rookie Simeon Varlamov, who made his NHL debut Dec. 13 and has played in only six games.
Still, the Capitals need a better game from Theodore than they got in Game 1, when he allowed four goals in 21 shots. The Southeast Division champs, who consider themselves serious contenders for the Stanley Cup, would be in a big hole if they have to go to New York down 0-2.
Boudreau inadvertently gave more fodder to the Theodore-bashers Friday when asked about the play of his defencemen.
"We allowed 21 shots, eight scoring chances, no seconds shots," the coach said. "That's about as good as a team can do in the NHL. I thought we played as good as we can play, and we didn't come up with it."
Translation: The Capitals defence absorbed most of the Rangers' attack before it ever reached the goalie.
Boudreau was unquestionably on message when discussing another developing saga from Game 1: the gamesmanship between the two coaches over the officiating.
Rangers coach John Tortorella got it started Thursday when asked about a hit left wing Fredrik Sjostrom took from Capitals defenceman Mike Green. Tortorella answered by referring to the holding penalty that sent defenceman Dan Girardi to the box in the game's first minute.
"You've got the Dan Girardi penalty at the beginning of the game, and was that a non-call? I believe it was," Tortorella said. "I just don't get it sometimes."
On Friday, Boudreau responded by saying he felt the Rangers got off lightly.
"I thought if everything was done properly, they should have had 12 or 13 penalties instead of the seven they had," Boudreau said. "In my humble opinion, the Mike Green thing was a penalty. They scored their second goal when they slashed (Shaone) Morrisonn's stick and broke it. It's tough for referees to get them all, but I definitely think they got the benefit of it."
A couple of hours later, after the Rangers' practice, it was Tortorella's turn. Asked about the Capitals' dominance in the face-off circles - Washington won an astonishing 70 per cent (46 of 66) of the draws in Game 1 - the coach said he noticed a few no-nos in his review of the tape.
"I just want to make sure the faceoffs are legal," Tortorella said. "The tying up and kicking can't be done until the puck hits the ice."
Notes: Jeff Schultz, the Capitals defenceman who fell to the ice just before Brandon Dubinsky scored the winning goal on Wednesday, missed practice with an undisclosed injury. Brian Pothier, who was scratched for Game 1, will play Saturday if Schultz can't. ... Rangers captain Chris Drury, who sat out Game 1 with an undisclosed injury, practised and looks ready to play. "I feel better than yesterday. Hopefully, it'll feel even better tomorrow," Drury said. ... While Tortorella set a serious tone at the Rangers' practice, the Capitals had some fun by wrapping up their workout with a shootout competition. "You can't, when you lose a game in a seven-game series, sit and drag your chin down on the ground," Boudreau said.