#1 vs. #2 in Eastern Conference Battle Tonight

January 17, 2009 | Ed Frankovic

The Caps will battle the Boston Bruins tonight at sold out Verizon Center in a matchup between #1 in the East, Boston, and #2 Washington. The Caps won the only other match-up between these two teams, 3-1, back on December 10th.

It sounds like Jose Theodore will get the call in net tonight and Chris Clark will once again be a healthy scratch. The team captain, who is the ultimate team player and classy guy, is just not playing well right now and as a result Eric Fehr will once again take his spot in the lineup as he did in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post, in today’s Capitals Insider blog


, mentions that Tom Poti is likely to be out longer and as a result Caps GM George McPhee will not have to make a roster move in order to keep rookie defensemen Karl Alzner up with the big club. As I mentioned in this blog on Monday night,


, I thought Alzner was either being distracted by the whole roster situation or his hand was bugging him. Tarik confirms that it was the roster situation. Here is the excerpt from Tarik’s blog on this:

*Boudreau had a heart-to-heart with defenseman Karl Alzner a few days ago after suspecting that the rookie was becoming distracted by the possibility of being sent back to Hershey for salary cap reasons. (When Poti returns, unless the GM George McPhee manages to clear space some other way, Alzner will likely have to go down.)

“I talked to him because you can’t do that – it’ll kill you,” Boudreau said. “Trying to control things that you can’t control is murderous on your psyche. If it just so happens that there’s an issue, that will happen anyway, whether you scored five goals tonight or didn’t score five goals tonight or played 35 minutes. I told him to just go out an play.”

“He struggled there for a few games, so I knew something was bothering him,” he added.

Alzner said: “I was worrying about getting sent down much too much earlier. About a week ago, that’s what I was thinking about. I know the situation. I know who is going to be coming back and approximately when. If it happens, it happens. Not too many guys get to play a full season, or even a half season, when they are 20 years old. My focus now is to make it hard for them.”

Thanks to Tarik for the info and confirmation and as I blogged on Monday night, I could see in his play plus based on talking to this young man numerous times since rookie camp last July, that something was just not right with him. He is too good a player to be regressing the way he did last weekend and into this week. I expect #27 to have a solid game tonight.

As for the Bruins, they are good! In net tonight they’ll have Tim Thomas, who did not face Washington in December. Thomas is an unconventional goalie but he gets results and he leads the NHL in save percentage at 93.7%. Add in one of the best defenseman in the league in Zdeno Chara (26:28 average ice time per game) and a bunch of good forwards to include Marc Savard (15 goals, 38 assists) David Krejci (17 goals, 31 assists) , Michael Ryder (17 goals, 15 assists), Blake Wheeler (13 goals, 15 assists), Chuck Kobasew (7 goals 14 assists in only 32 games) and Milan Lucic (11 goals, 15 assists, and 84 PIM) and it is no coincidence why this team is 11 points ahead of the Caps in the Eastern Conference. Boston is without forward Phil Kessel tonight, who had 24 goals and 17 assists in 42 games, due to mononucleosis. Lucic may also be out as he is day to day with an undisclosed injury.

I’ll be at the Verizon Center and since this is the last home Caps game for two weeks I hope to talk with as many players as possible and put those interviews up on in this blog over the next several days.

By the way, after the Caps game,  for those of you with the NHL Center Ice Package don’t forget to tune into a battle of #1 and #2 in the Western Conference as the Detroit Red Wings are in San Jose to take on the Sharks at 1030pm.