Caps Blog: The Adam Oates all-star team

Posted on: Thursday 6/28/2012 10:47am

Ben Raby, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Amid all of the coverage this week of the Washington Capitals hiring Adam Oates as the 16th head coach in team history, there has been plenty of focus on Oates' playing career.

Oates spent 19 years in the NHL and ranks sixth all-time in assists and 16th all- time in points. His career accomplishments will be celebrated Nov. 12 when he is officially inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2012.

When inducted, Oates will likely thank the coaches and teammates who helped him along the way. And when you play for seven teams spread over parts of three decades, chances are good that you played with some talented teammates along the way.

With that in mind, we've compiled the All-Adam Oates-Team, a roster made up entirely of Oates' former teammates. The roster includes 15 forwards, six defensemen, three goalies and two coaches.

Like the NHL's annual All Star Game, the only criteria for this roster was that all seven of Oates' former teams had at least one representative.

Among the omissions from this list were two of the game's best enforcers in Bob Probert and Chris Simon. We've also omitted Hall of Fame member Joe Mullen who Oates played briefly with in Boston for part of the 1995-96 season.

THE ADAM OATES ALL-TIME ROSTER:

Forwards

  • Brendan Shanahan (STL)
  • Paul Kariya (ANA)
  • John LeClair (PHI)
  • Ryan Smyth (EDM)
  • Adam Graves (DET)
  • Adam Oates
  • Rod Brind'Amour (STL)
  • Steve Yzerman (DET)
  • Peter Bondra (WSH)
  • Jeremy Roenick(PHI)
  • Dale Hunter (WSH)
  • Brett Hull (STL)
  • Jaromir Jagr (WSH)
  • Mark Recchi (PHI)
  • Cam Neely (BOS)

Defensemen

  • Raymond Bourque (BOS)
  • Eric Desjardins (PHI)
  • Sergei Gonchar (WSH)
  • Scott Stevens (STL)
  • Calle Johansson (WSH)
  • Glen Wesley (BOS)

Goalies

  • Curtis Joseph (STL)
  • Andy Moog (BOS)
  • Olaf Kolzig (WSH)

Coaches

  • Mike Babcock (ANA)
  • Ron Wilson (WSH)

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    (Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

  • New Caps coach caps day with Hall of Fame selection

    Posted on: Wednesday 6/27/2012 6:22am

    AP: 00934f05-0145-4304-a980-cc4fde17b4f7
    In this Nov. 19, 2003 photo, Adam Oates skates during hockey practice for the Edmonton Oilers. Oates is the new coach of the Washington Capitals, and has been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld, File)

    Ben Raby, wtop.com

    WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals' next game is still more than three months away, but the Adam Oates era in D.C. is already off to a remarkable start.

    The former Capitals captain finalized a deal late Tuesday morning to become the 16th head coach in team history, replacing former teammate Dale Hunter, who stepped down May 14. And hours after accepting his first ever head coaching position, Oates was one of four former players voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2012.

    "Obviously it's an absolute fantastic day," Oates said Tuesday afternoon. "I don't know if that's ever happened before. I've got to go out and play Lotto I think.

    "It's a huge honor - obviously I was very excited about the coaching job and then to be called to the Hall of Fame just makes it a special day for us."

    Oates joins the Capitals after spending the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils. Prior to that, Oates was an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2009-10.

    The 49-year-old is expected to bring an up-tempo style to the Caps and help restore some of the offensive flair that was missing under Hunter.

    Oates was no stranger to the offensive game during his 19-year playing career, finishing with 341 goals and 1,079 assists. He is sixth all-time in assists and 16th all-time in overall scoring with 1,420 points.

    Not bad for a guy who was never drafted and signed with the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent in 1985.

    "When the scouts look at the draft, they look at the big kids and the fast kids," Oates explained, "and I was a small guy and a late bloomer. I kind of slipped through the cracks but that allowed me to go to college… Obviously I got to play 19 years in this league which was fantastic, but it easily could have gone in another direction."

    Instead, Oates landed in Detroit, the first of seven teams he played for in his Hall of Fame career. The Toronto native also played for St. Louis, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Anaheim and Edmonton.

    In the 1990s, Oates established himself as one of the game's best setup men and the numbers support the argument. From 1990-99, only Wayne Gretzky had more assists than Oates.

    "Yes, Wayne Gretzky had the best numbers and was the best to ever play the game," fellow Hall of Fame inductee Joe Sakic said, "but I'll tell you one thing - in my era it was Wayne and it was Adam Oates for playmaking.

    You remember going into St. Louis and watching Adam and Brett Hull and the magic they had and the chemistry they had… But it wasn't just with Brett. He made everyone around him better and was one of the best playmakers of all time."

    In addition to Oates and Sakic, Pavel Bure and Mats Sundin were also inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The official induction ceremonies take place in Toronto Nov. 12.

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    (Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

    Caps' Ward: Racist tweets don't hurt, detract from others

    Posted on: Friday 4/27/2012 10:46am

    AP: a132847c-68ca-4ab8-b77a-a5d996ad930a
    Boston Bruins' Tyler Seguin is dumped by Washington Capitals' Joel Ward (42) during the third period of Washington's 4-3 win in Game 5 in a first-round NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey series in Boston Saturday, April 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

    WASHINGTON - The Capitals winger whose game- and series-winning goal came under a cloud of racist comments told WTOP on Friday he's focused on more important things.

    "The words don't hurt me at all," Joel Ward, Capitals' right winger, told WTOP of the racist tweets posted after his Game 7 playoff goal against Boston on Wednesday night. "I want the team to win, and that's the main focus for me."

    Outrage online and in the media at the racist comments outnumbers the racial slurs themselves, but Ward looks to others who are hurt by the tarnished situation.

    "I'm just more upset that it took accolades away from people like Braden Holtby," Ward says of his goaltender teammate. "It's just terrible."

    "But there was a lot of support from a lot of people," he says. "Obviously you can't control everybody. It is what it is."

    Ward received a text message from Bruin Rich Peverley following the wave of racially oriented comments, expressing his happiness for Ward and wishing the Capitals good luck in the team's next series against the New York Rangers.

    "We're going to stick with the plan and keep it simple," Ward says of the coming days.

    D.C. Mayor Vince Gray said the comments were "very disappointing," while speaking on WTOP's "Ask the Mayor" program.

    "It shows we still have in some parts of our society some very high levels of racism," he says.

    But this should be a teachable moment for hockey fans and youth players, he adds, pointing to youth programs like the Fort Dupont hockey league where coaches are trying to recruit more black players.

    "This is a celebratory moment for African Americans," Gray said. "This is a celebratory moment for the city."

    Ward coaches at Fort Dupont in Southeast D.C. The youth team, which wears Bruins colors to Ward's discontent, will have to be without their coach as he prepares for the conference semifinals.

    Related Story

    Hear more about Game 7 and its aftermath, including how it felt to score that goal, in the full audio with Ward at right

    WTOP's Paul D. Shinkman contributed to this report. Follow Paul and WTOP on Twitter.

    (Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

    Tags: joel ward

    Two resilient teams set for battle in Beantown

    Posted on: Wednesday 4/25/2012 5:48pm

    AP: 6cc61078-ab74-4034-a209-8fdd009c8a30
    Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russia, celebrates his goal against the Boston Bruins during the third period of Game 6 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 22, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

    WILMINGTON, Mass. - Bruins forward Brad Marchand seems to have the answer as to why the Boston-Washington series has been so tight.

    Really, it's pretty simple.

    "Both teams are just really resilient and I think both teams have a lot of character," Marchand said after practice Tuesday. "And when you have guys like that in the room and on the ice, a little momentum swing won't affect guys and they can bounce back fairly quickly from it."

    Indeed, this Eastern Conference, first-round pairing has been historically close. Not only is it knotted, 3-3, it is the first NHL series to ever have its first six games decided by one goal.

    "That just seems," Marchand said, "to be the case so far."

    Game 7 is Wednesday at TD Garden.

    The Bruins staved off elimination with a 4-3 overtime win in Game 6 Sunday. They won two of the three games played in Washington. But the Capitals have also won two road games in the series, and they also triumphed in both visits to Boston during the regular season.

    So, who knows, maybe the hostile environment plays to the Capitals' strengths.

    "Obviously, Boston's a tough rink to play in, but I think it suits our team well because it brings us down to a level where we don't try to do too much," Washington goaltender Braden Holtby said. "We don't try to be too fancy. I think we've been guilty of that in front of our home crowd a bit, letting our emotions get to us with the noise of the crowd and whatnot. And I think playing on the road really helps us."

    The Capitals are staying level-headed though, knowing that past success in Boston might not continue in a Game 7 atmosphere.

    "You don't think about it too much. You hear about it and you recognize that, but it's not something where we'll say, `Oh, we're gonna beat them because we've beat them before on their rink,'" Washington defenseman Karl Alzner said. "Every game is going to be different. We just really have to remember the simple things and play that simple game.

    "It's always nice if you can win a Game 7, 4-1, 5-1, but you've got to be realistic and tell yourself that it's going to be a tight game and you've got to battle right to the end and don't worry about wanting to get a lead and just coast."

    Boston knows the Garden might not have a large impact on a Game 7. Although the Bruins won two Game 7s at home during their run to the Stanley Cup championship last year, their ultimate victory came on Vancouver's ice in Game 7 of the Cup finals.

    Without question, though, the Bruins will draw on that win over the Canucks.

    "It matters a bit. We know we have to battle for 60 minutes right down to the last buzzer," Marchand said. "But in Game 7, anything can happen. It's usually a lucky bounce or a minor mistake that will decide the game.

    "So we have to be prepared to play our best game yet in this series."

    Boston center Patrice Bergeron should help. He has had two days to rest his undisclosed injury. The Selke Trophy finalist was injured in the second period of Game 5. He returned to that game and then played in Game 6, but the league's second-place finisher in faceoff percentage during the regular season took only one draw.

    Although Bergeron did not practice Tuesday, he's expected to play Wednesday. When asked if he had any concerns of missing Bergeron for Game 7, Bruins coach Claude Julien said: "Not at all."

    Other than Bergeron, both teams are relatively healthy for this time of year, and they are approaching this tilt like it is any other.

    "Ultimately, when you get out there on the ice to play, yes. You're trying to do what you've spent, well at my age, tens of thousands of hours practicing in doing," Boston goaltender Tim Thomas said. "So yes, ultimately. But having said that, everyone knows it's Game 7, it's do or die, it is different.

    "It is its own unique beast."


    (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

    Caps will peak at the right time this season

    Posted on: Thursday 4/12/2012 1:14pm

    Can the Capitals Capitalize?

    Posted on: Thursday 4/12/2012 2:46am By jwarner

    holtby.jpg
    Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby (70) makes a save against Minnesota Wild right wing Nick Johnson (25) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 25, 2012, in Washington. From left are Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov, Johnson, Holtby, and Capitals defenseman John Carlson. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

    Jonathan Warner, wtop.com

    WASHINGTON - Here we go again. For the fifth-straight year, the Capitals are in the playoffs. They took early exits the previous four.

    So, what can we expect this time?

    Well, for one thing, the Caps will be starting their fifth-different goaltender. Christobal Huet back-stopped the young Caps into the postseason in 2008. Jose Theodore started the next two-years, but was quickly yanked in favor of Semyon Varlamov.

    Last year, Michael Neuvirth got the Capitals into the second round. But, he and top goalie Tomas Vokoun are both hurt this time around. We may still see them in net should the Capitals extend their series with the Boston Bruins or even advance past the first round.

    But right now, Washington's hopes are in the catching glove of 22-year-old Braden Holtby. He has played in a grand total of 21 NHL games. This will be his first NHL playoff experience. But, he seems to have the makeup to rise to the challenge.

    He has already won in Detroit and New York this season and his career record with the Caps is 14-4-3 with a sterling 2.02 goals-against-average. That includes three shutouts.

    However, Holtby's abilities will be greatly tested by the defending Stanley Cup Champs, who boast six 20-goal scorers, the most in the NHL.

    Capitals General Manager George McPhee calls the Bruins the most complete team in the league. They're the third-highest scoring team and have given up the sixth-least goals.

    In net, they have Tim Thomas, who won the Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies last year as the top goalie during the season and MVP of the playoffs, helping Boston win the Stanley Cup.

    That's where the Bruins have the biggest advantage, between the pipes. Also, they're tested, tough and balanced.

    And big, boasting 6-foot-9 defenseman Zdeno Charra; the tallest player in NHL history. He's also the strongest.

    So, what chance do the Caps have?

    That's a question you could have asked about the Montreal Canadiens in 2010 and the Tampa Bay Lightning last year. Yet, both those teams still managed to beat the Capitals, who were the top-seed.

    Unlike the previous three seasons, Washington struggled just to reach the playoffs. They've been in playoff mode now for about two-months, rather than being in cruise-control and then trying to ramp it up again.

    Also, this time, Washington won't have home-ice advantage. And maybe that's a good thing.

    It didn't quite work out when they were eliminated by Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Montreal all at Verizon Center. This season, the Capitals won three of four from the Bruins, including both games in Boston.

    So, they know they can win on the road. Also, outside of the goaltending situation, the Capitals are the healthiest they've been since the start of the season with the returns of Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom.

    The Bruins were basically a .500 club the second half of the season and when 82-games were played, had just seven more wins and three less losses than the Capitals. Not that big a difference.

    With both teams having inconsistent seasons, anything can happen in the playoffs. And maybe, just maybe, with little expected of the Capitals going up against the defending champions, they'll surprise us again. This time for the good.

    That's why even though my head says Bruins in five games, my heart picks the Capitals in six.

    Follow Jonathan and WTOP on Twitter.

    (Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

    Top 10 games of Caps' regular season (10 through 6)

    Posted on: Sunday 4/8/2012 9:13pm

    AP: 6b6152d7-0ecf-496f-98c0-cd0f01435292
    Washington Capitals' John Carlson, right, celebrates his goal with teammate Nicklas Backstrom during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers, Saturday, April 7, 2012, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

    Ben Raby, wtop.com

    WASHINGTON - With the regular-season complete and the Stanley Cup Playoffs set to begin Wednesday ( the Caps open in Boston on Thursday), WTOP.com has counted down the Top 10 games of the Capitals' regular season.

    Today we look at games 10 through 6.

      10. Nov. 23, 2011: Capitals 4 - Jets 3 (OT) - On the four-year anniversary of his first career win as Washington Capitals head coach, Bruce Boudreau earned what turned out to be his final win as the Capitals' bench boss.

      Jason Chimera scored at 1:52 of overtime as the Caps improved to 8-1-1 at Verizon Center with the 4-3 win over Winnipeg. It was Chimera's second goal of the game and his eighth of the season, which at the time (20 games into the season) was good enough for the team lead.

      Chimera also fired a season-high seven shots on goal and celebrated the OT win by diving headfirst and sliding along the ice in what turned out to be one of the Caps' images of the year.

      Alexander Semin opened the scoring for the Capitals in his first game back after being made a healthy scratch two nights earlier in a 4-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes (Joel Ward was a healthy scratch against Winnipeg after sleeping through his alarm and arriving late to a team meeting one day earlier).

      Nicklas Backstrom also scored for the Caps on his 24th birthday. Rookie defenseman Dmitry Orlov collected his first career NHL point on the play with a secondary assist in his second career NHL game.

      9. Dec. 3, 2011: Capitals 3 - Senators 2 (OT) - It was a milestone night at Verizon Center as Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin both skated in their 500th career NHL games.

      Laich celebrated in (half a) grand style. He netted the game-winning goal just 12 seconds into overtime - a goal that produced another milestone, as Dale Hunter earned his first career win as an NHL head coach.

      "It feels good," Hunter said. "It's something you want to get over with right away, hopefully the first game but it ends up being the third. It's one of those things you want to get and move on."

      The Caps had dropped Hunter's first two games behind the bench, falling by identical 2-1 scores against St. Louis and Pittsburgh, and had lost four straight games overall for the first time in four years.

      Laich made sure that the losing streak would not reach five games, fittingly netting the game-winner against the team that drafted him in 2001 and for whom he played his first career NHL game in 2004.

      8. Feb. 28, 2012: Capitals 3 - Islanders 2 (OT) - One day after the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline, the Capitals hosted the New York Islanders and trailed going into the third period. The Caps eventually tied the game with goalie Michal Neuvirth pulled in the final minute of regulation, before winning in overtime on a goal from Alex Ovechkin.

      One day after the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline, the script was nearly identical. Again, the Islanders were the visitors and again, the Caps were playing catch up late in the third period. But just as they did in 2011 with Neuvirth on the bench, the Caps tied the game in the final minute of regulation, and just as he did exactly 52 weeks earlier, Ovechkin netted the OT winner to beat the Islanders.

      The third-period comeback made the Capitals overtime win all the more impressive. The Caps trailed 2-0 with less than four minutes to play, before Troy Brouwer broke a 13-game goalless drought and scored at 16:31 and at 19:34 of the third frame to pull Washington even.

      When Ovechkin scored at 1:55 of overtime, it marked just the third time in franchise history that the Capitals won a game where they trailed by two goals in the final four minutes. The previous two such wins came on Dec. 6, 2002 (7-6 vs. Atlanta) and Dec. 1, 1984 (5-4 at Boston).

      7. March 13, 2012: Capitals 5 - Islanders 4 (SO) - Without the guarantee of a fifth straight playoff appearance, the Capitals embarked on a season-long, five-game road trip in mid-March. At first glance, it looked like a grueling task with games in Uniondale, Winnipeg, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia.

      The Jets, Blackhawks, Red Wings and Flyers were among the NHL's best teams on home ice and while the Caps would not say so publicly, the game against the last-place Islanders seemed like the best bet to secure two points.

      The Capitals had a slow start on Long Island, though. They trailed 2-0 at the first intermission and 4-1 late in the second period, thanks to a pair of goals from John Tavares. Not exactly the tone the Capitals were hoping to set at the beginning of their five-game trip.

      But Alex Ovechkin scored with 53 seconds remaining in the second frame to jumpstart a Caps comeback reminiscent of so many come-from-behind wins of years past. Dmitry Orlov would score at 1:51 of the third period to pull the Caps within one before Ovechkin tied the game 4-4, with his second goal of the night.

      Mike Knuble had also scored for the Capitals, snapping a personal 34-game goalless drought, and Keith Aucoin picked up an NHL career-high three assists. The Caps completed the comeback in the shootout when Matt Hendricks pulled off his patented pump-fake and beat Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

      The win gave the Caps their first four-game winning streak in calendar year 2012 and their second four-game winning streak under head coach Dale Hunter. It also marked the first time the Capitals had come back from a 4-1 deficit to win 5-4 in a shootout since Jan. 13, 2010 against the Florida Panthers.

      6. March 19, 2012: Capitals 5 - Red Wings 3 - One day after one of their uglier losses of the season, 5-2 in Chicago, the Capitals bounced back with one of their best road wins of the year.

      With Braden Holtby making just his second NHL start of the season and the Caps facing the NHL's best team on home ice (the Red Wings were 28-4-4 heading into their mid-March game against the Caps), Washington built an early lead and never looked back.

      Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring with a first-period power play goal, while Mike Knuble doubled the Caps lead less than four minutes later. It was Knuble's third goal in a four-game stretch after scoring three goals in his previous 60 games combined.

      But the game turned late in the first period when the Red Wings appeared to cut the Caps' lead in half. A shot from defenseman Kyle Quincy eluded Holtby, but the goal was waved off due to goaltender interference. Tomas Holmstrom was assessed a two-minute penalty and Ovechkin scored on the ensuing power play, giving the Capitals a 3-0 lead.

      Keith Aucoin would net the eventual game-winning goal with Alexander Semin drawing the primary assist for his 400th career point. Jason Chimera put the game away with an empty-net power play tally late in the third period. Chimera tied his career high with the 17th goal of the season, while Mike Green picked up a secondary assist for his first point since Oct. 22.

      Washington's power play finished 3-for-4 for the night, marking the first time in 19 games that the Caps had multiple power play tallies. Holtby made 30 saves for his first NHL win in 359 days.

      Ovechkin's two goals were also part of his most productive stretch of the season. The Caps' captain had nine goals in seven games from March 13-25, including at least one goal in five straight games from March 19-25.

    Follow Ben Raby and WTOP on Twitter.

    (Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

    Caps on familiar side of playoffs

    Posted on: Wednesday 3/28/2012 3:21pm

    capsd.jpg
    Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby leaves the NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres after he gave up three goals during the second period, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, in Washington. Also seen are Capitals left wing Alexander Semin, center, of Russia, and Troy Brouwer, right. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

    Ben Raby, wtop.com

    WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals woke up this morning in unfamiliar territory -- on the outside of a playoff position with five games to play.

    Since the 2008-09 season, the Caps have coasted into the NHL's second season with a playoff berth assured weeks in advance.

    But after Tuesday's 5-1 loss against the Buffalo Sabres, the Caps find themselves in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the eighth place Sabres.

    "We've always had seasons like last year and the year before," said defenseman Karl Alzner. "Being in such a close battle right up to the end is a little bit different. I like the pressure and [it's nice] that every game is so meaningful, but I think starting to experience both- I think I prefer to go in with a little more ease."

    Even dating back to his time with the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears, Alzner has never been in a playoff race that has come down to the final week of the regular-season. Ditto for teammates John Carlson, Jay Beagle, Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby who have all been part of first place teams in both Hershey and Washington.

    "Right now we all know it's in our hands," Alzner said. We've got to win these games. We win all five then we're pretty much in I think because we've got the tie-breakers and all that. It's just guys are frustrated with us losing not only to Buffalo last night but [in overtime against] Winnipeg the way we did. We could have changed things and made it a heck of a lot easier on ourselves."

    Instead, the Caps must now play catch up with Florida (five points), Ottawa (four points), and Buffalo (two points) still within reach even though the time is running low.

    It is not an enviable position the Caps find themselves in, but one not uncommon to a few veterans who have experienced late season playoff races in their previous places of work.

    "We were in a tough spot going into the final couple games of the season," Troy Brouwer said of last year's Chicago Blackhawks. "Same thing- we got in by another team losing on the very last day. There are a lot of situations going down the season where you've got to come into a game and you need to have a good effort and you have to find ways to get points."

    Brouwer missed the last three games of the regular season with a shoulder injury but watched from the press box as the Blackhawks entered the final game of the season needing just one point to clinch a playoff berth.

    Instead, the Blackhawks lost 4-3 at home against the Detroit Red Wings and needed the Minnesota Wild to beat the Dallas Stars later that same day to assure a playoff position. The Wild won 5-3 and Chicago was playoff-bound by the slimmest of margins.

    During the 2008-09 season, then-Florida Panther Tomas Vokoun was not as lucky. The Panthers won six of their final eight regular-season games, but still finished in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, just shy of a playoff appearance.

    "The thing is we won those games and we still weren't in control of what's going to happen," Vokoun said. "We ended up losing on a tie-breaker and having negative win against the team we were competing with [Montreal]. But right now we shouldn't be looking at anything- just at winning tomorrow and playing like we need to."

    Catch the Capitals and Boston Bruins Thursday at 7pm. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 6:45 on Federal News Radio, WFED 1500 AM and online at www.wfed.com .

    Follow Benand WTOP on Twitter.

    (Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

    Caps' Backstrom in Boston, but won't play

    Posted on: Wednesday 3/28/2012 3:07pm

    Ben Raby, wtop.com

    WASHINGTON - Injured Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom will accompany the team to Boston, but will not play tomorrow against the Bruins.

    Backstrom took part in an optional skate Wednesday, marking the 15th time in the last 16 days that the Caps' No.1 center has taken the ice.

    His return to Dale Hunter's lineup could come within the week, but both coach and player confirmed Wednesday that it won't be until at least this weekend.

    "He's not going to play tomorrow," Hunter said. "We just want him with the team so that he can practice the drills -- the battle drills that if he gets in that's how he'll have to play. They're hard drills out there and everyday he's been fine so it's good news for us and for him."

    Backstrom has not played since taking an elbow to the head from then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque on Jan. 3. The Caps have won 17 of 39 games without Backstrom in the lineup.

    "Well, I'm close," Backstrom said. "I'm close to playing, I think. Obviously it takes a while to get back in normal shape. But we don't have too much time, either. I'm feeling good. I've been practicing [well] the last couple days and I've been pushing it a little bit, too."

    Backstrom was cleared for contact last Saturday and given the green light to fully practice with his teammates. Yesterday he passed an NHL-mandated concussion baseline test "with flying colors" according to general manager George McPhee.

    Now it's up to Backstrom himself to determine when he is in the necessary game shape to return to the lineup.

    "Maybe the lungs, after not being able to do anything in two months, 2 ½ months," Backstrom said of what still needs to improve. "Especially the lungs. But it's getting better. We'll take it day-by-day and see where it goes."

    The 24-year-old Swede was the Capitals' leading scorer at the time of his injury with 42 points in 38 games and his return would be tremendous boost for a team that is on the outside of a playoff position with five games to play.

    "Changes a lot for this team," defenseman Karl Alzner said of a possible Backstrom return. "Just looking at the things that he does for the team not only offensively but defensively, he logs a lot of minutes and makes everybody better. It's a huge, huge part for all the guys to have him back, we're hoping that he is, but at the same time it's a head thing you've got to take it easy."

    Following tomorrow's game in Boston, the Capitals return home to face the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. The ninth place Capitals are two points behind the eighth place Buffalo Sabres.

    Catch the Capitals and Boston Bruins Thursday at 7pm. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 6:45 on Federal News Radio, WFED 1500AM and online at www.wfed.com.

    Follow WTOP on Twitter.

    (Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

    Backstrom cleared for return to Capitals

    Posted on: Wednesday 3/28/2012 9:13am

    Ben Raby, wtop.com

    WASHINGTON - Injured Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom has cleared another hurdle as he looks to return to Dale Hunter's lineup before the end of the regular season.

    Caps general manager George McPhee confirmed Tuesday that Washington's No. 1 center has passed an NHL-mandated concussion baseline test "with flying colors."

    Backstrom hasn't played since taking an elbow to the head from then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque on Jan. 3. The Caps have won 17 of 39 games without Backstrom in the lineup.

    "Obviously he's a terrific player, but it's got to be his decision," McPhee said, referring to when Backstrom may return to the ice. "He's a grown-up and he knows how he feels, and he'll make the decision as to whether he plays or not."

    At the time of his injury, The 24-year-old Swede was the Capitals' leading scorer with 42 points in 38 games. His return would be a tremendous boost for a team on the outside of a playoff position with five games left.

    It seems it's only a matter of Backstrom getting back to game-shape and in an effort to recondition, Backstrom skated 14 of the last 15 days .

    Backstrom's progress is welcome news for the Capitals given the uncertainty surrounding concussions and the player's setbacks last winter.

    "You don't know when these things happen whether it's going to be a day, a month, a year, two years," McPhee says. "We're just really relieved today that he feels great and he's out practicing again. He's a fabulous player that we need and this league needs. These are the guys you want to watch, the real difference-makers."

    Backstrom's condition improved after visiting Sweden in March to see family. The trip was a mental break for Backstrom who grew frustrated being around a hockey environment but unable to participate.

    "Maybe that's got to be part of the protocol now for guys starting to stall in his progress - send them home," McPhee said prior to the Capitals 5-1 loss against the Buffalo Sabres. The Tuesday loss leaves the Capitals in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind eighth place Sabres.

    PROSPECT GRUBAUER UNDERGOES SURGERY:

    McPhee also confirmed that goaltending prospect Philipp Grubauer underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a torn tendon in his wrist.

    Washington's 2010 fourth-round draft pick was enjoying an impressive rookie campaign with the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays before suffering his season-ending injury.

    "We really like him," McPhee said. "Obviously we liked him enough to draft him and then after Dave Prior got to work with him for a little bit we said ‘Boy, this guy's even better than we thought.' So we're certainly happy that he's turning out to be as good as he is. And he's played a lot of hockey this year so he should be even better next year."

    Grubauer, 20, also had his final season of junior hockey cut short last year due to a bout with mononucleosis, but associate goaltending coach Olaf Kolzig said last month that Grubauer is on track with his development.

    "He's mature beyond his years," Kolzig said. "He's very athletic, very poised, doesn't get too high or get too low. As a goaltender, you have to develop that happy medium where you don't get too caught up when you're playing bad or too excited when you're playing good. Just go about it every game the same way."

    In his first professional season, Grubauer went 23-15-5 with a 2.22 goals-against-average and .918 save percentage. He was also named the ECHL's Goaltender of the Month in November and its Rookie of the Month in January.

    "He legitimately should be in the American League, and unfortunately with the numbers here he's in the East Coast League [ECHL]. And he went down with a great attitude and because of that he's had a fantastic year."

    McPhee said that he's hopeful Grubauer will be fully recovered and able to participate in the team's summer development camp in mid-July.

    CAPS SIGN FREE AGENT CAMERON SCHILLING:

    The Capitals also announced Tuesday it has signed free agent defenseman Cameron Schilling to a two-year entry-level contract.

    Schilling just completed his senior season at Miami University (Ohio) where he recorded 14 points in 39 games. In 144 career games at the collegiate level, Schilling collected 57 points (eight goals, 49 assists) and 155 penalty minutes.

    "He feels like a good, solid pro -- a real mature kid and mature player," McPhee said. "Probably [a] shutdown D, but he's got good wheels. He gaps up quick; he retrieves pucks quick, gets to people quick. He's got some stiffness to him; he plays with some bite."

    Schilling is expected to report to the AHL Hershey Bears later this week where he will spend the remainder of the season on a tryout contract.

    Catch the Capitals and Boston Bruins Thursday at 7pm. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 6:45 on Federal News Radio, WFED 1500AM and online at www.wfed.com.

    Follow WTOP on Twitter.

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