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Getting a win helps Hannan settle in with Capitals

by Corey Masisak /
WASHINGTON -- This has been a long month for all of the Washington Capitals, but probably more so for Scott Hannan than any of his new teammates.

Hannan waived a no-trade clause to join Washington on the final day of November and watched his new team defeat the St. Louis Blues the next day. After that, Hannan was inserted into the lineup at quite the unfortunate time – the onset of an eight-game losing streak.

Now the Capitals have won a game with Hannan -- a 3-2 victory Sunday in Ottawa -- and he is nearing the end of sorting out everything away from the rink as well. Normalcy is rapidly approaching, and he can't wait.

"I had almost forgotten what [winning] felt like," Hannan said. "No, it had been a while longer than I wanted, but it was great to get the win. I thought the guys battled hard. It was a tough start but we battled back and stuck with it, stuck with the game plan and some stuff went in. We had to score five goals to get three (the Capitals had two goals disallowed), but it was nice to find the back of the net and it was nice to see the excitement in the room after the game.

"It was tough, but you saw the way the team could play when we wanted to. I thought some of the games we outshot teams, outplayed them, but that's the way hockey goes sometimes. We worked on some things and changed the way we came at it. We worked on some things that we're going to need to do well to win in the playoffs. It is better to go through it now than to lose four games in the playoffs."

Hannan has been plenty busy when he wasn't trying to help the Capitals snap out of a nearly three-week long funk as well. He's been in the process of moving his wife, 10-month-old baby and his dog from a Denver suburb to Northern Virginia.

The HBO documentary series "24/7" tagged along during one day of his house hunting, and his family is almost settled.

"The dog got here yesterday and we're moving in [to a new place] tomorrow," Hannan said. "Everything will get back to normal as far as away from the ice. The stuff at the rink -- it is an easy group to fit into here. It is a great group of guys from management on down."

Added Mike Knuble, who has moved to a new city four times in his NHL career: "Logistically, it takes three or four weeks figuring your way around and trying to find a place to live. It is difficult to do that and play a real high level, but when the game is on you just have to think about the game and when it is not you know you're going to be running around doing other things.

"There's a lot of things going on -- especially when you have a family. For a single guy it is pretty easy to pack your bag and go and you don't have to worry about anything, but Scott has a young family and it is kind of far away too. He's a veteran guy and he'll figure it out. He's got a pretty easy demeanor about him."

Knuble might be onto something there. Tomas Fleischmann, the guy who went to Colorado in the trade for Hannan, is a young guy without a family to worry about. He has flourished since the move, collecting 5 goals and 11 points in nine games.

Hannan's transition with the Capitals has not gone as smoothly. He has a minus-9 rating and has been on the ice for 14 of the 27 goals scored against Washington in his nine contests.

"Everything will get back to normal as far as away from the ice. The stuff at the rink -- it is an easy group to fit into here. It is a great group of guys from management on down." -- Scott Hannan

Save for an extreme outlier (minus-21 in the 2008-09 campaign when Colorado was one of the worst teams in the League), Hannan has not finished another season with worse than a minus-5 rating. Given that's he not an offensive-minded guy, there is greater emphasis on keeping the puck out of his own net. When that doesn't happen, his plus-minus is going to suffer.

"It is nothing that he's doing. We all need to look right at ourselves," Knuble said. "We haven't helped him out. He was as frustrated as anybody. What's he thinking? He comes here and it is supposed to be a good team and we lose eight straight. He's got to be thinking, 'What's going on here?' It just happens to be the timing. He's a veteran guy though and he's not going to get flustered by that. It isn't a one-man show -- it is on all of us."

Bruce Boudreau has paired Hannan with each of the other five healthy Washington defensemen -- Mike Green, Tom Poti, John Carlson, Karl Alzner and John Erskine -- for at least one game at even strength. Hannan has been paired with Green the most often, but with mixed results.

Given the success of the young pairing (Alzner and Carlson) it looks like Hannan and Green will stick together -- for now.

"I'm just trying the find with Scotty the proper chemistry and putting him on his left side being a defensive guy and Mike starting to take off a little more the past couple games," Boudreau said. "We thought it would be not a bad fit until [Jeff] Schultz comes back."

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