Banged Up Caps Hit the Road

October 26, 2010 | Ed Frankovic

There isn’t anyone named Hawkeye or Trapper on the club, but the Washington Capitals squad certainly is resembling a M*A*S*H unit as they get ready to start a three games in four nights road trip that starts in Carolina on Wednesday night (7pm on CSN), then moves to Minnesota for a tilt with the Wild on Thursday (8pm on CSN) and concludes on Hockey Night in Canada in Calgary on Saturday night (10pm on CSN).

Defenseman Tom Poti will not be in the lineup on Wednesday night, he also missed last Saturday’s OT victory over Atlanta, so Hershey Bears d-man, Brian Fahey, was recalled today. Fahey played in one game already this year, the Caps 3-2 OT win in Nashville on October 16th. Fahey skated less than 10 minutes in that tilt and was a -2. Mike Green, who logged only 5:39 of ice time on Saturday due to a sore shoulder, is hoping to play a full game in Raleigh. In addition, John Carlson is looking to totally recover from his bad wheel (took a puck in the leg in Nashville) and Karl Alzner will be battling jet lag after traveling to British Columbia and back for his grandfather’s funeral.

In goal, Semyon Varlamov is still on the shelf with a creaky groin so Michal Neuvirth will start on Wednesday against the speedy Canes. Dany Sabourin, who was called up from the Bears to back up #30 on Saturday, was returned to Hershey and Braden Holtby (Caps 2008 draft choice) will be making the trip to NC, Minnesota, and then Alberta. Holtby is 4-0-1 this season in Chocolate Town and could make his 1st NHL start on this trip, depending on how things go, according to Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau.

At forward, several guys have been out of the lineup to include Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon, and Marcus Johansson. At least one of those is expected to go on Wednesday, with Bradley being the most likely. Center Mathieu Perreault, who was recalled on Saturday and had a dynamite contest playing with Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich, remains up while Jay Beagle was returned to Hershey.

This will be a difficult road swing for Washington. Carolina always gets up for the Caps and they are off to a better start this year than last season, when injuries to superstar Eric Staal and goalie Cam Ward caused them to lose 14 games in a row early on. The Wild have an excellent goalie in Niklas Backstrom, who lost, 3-2, to Los Angeles in a shootout on Monday night. Calgary seems intent on getting back into the postseason after missing out last April. Rene Bourque is off to a hot start (tied for the NHL lead in scoring at this posting) and Jarome Iginla seems to be playing better since reuniting with forward Alex Tanguay. On defense, so far Jay Bouwmeester is significantly better than he was in 2009-10 and when he was with Florida he typically matched up against Alexander Ovechkin’s line. In goal, the Flames have the always tough Mikka Kiprusoff to try and beat with the biscuit.

The bottom line is the Caps will have to be ready to play from the get go against every one of these teams on this road trip and the first line of Ovechkin, Mike Knuble, and Nicklas Backstrom needs to break out of its funk. Washington may have lost in the first round of the playoffs last season, but because of their Presidents’ Trophy winning regular season, they have a bullseye on their back right now and teams are gunning for them.

Notes:  The Washington Capitals continue to excel off the ice as well. The club raised more than $35,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) through their Hockey Fights Cancer Night on Oct. 23. The mission of LLS, the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer, is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services.

The Capitals auctioned autographed jerseys that the players wore during pregame warmups at the team’s Oct. 23 home game against Atlanta. The jerseys featured Hockey Fights Cancer patches on the front with the players’ names and numbers stitched in grey on the back. The red and grey jerseys are the same colors as LLS’s logo.

Fourteen jerseys went for $1,000 or more, with Ovechkin’s jersey the top seller at $1,800. Other top bid recipients were jerseys worn and autographed by Backstrom, Bradley, Carlson, Jason Chimera, Green, D.J. King, Knuble, Laich, Perreault, Poti, Jeff Schultz, Semin and Varlamov. There was also a special “Rock the Red” guitar donated by Paul Reed Smith and autographed by the entire Caps team that was auctioned off for $7,000.