On Friday, Tom Poti told me the Caps wanted to bury the rest of the Southeast Division on this three game southern swing.
On Saturday, the defenseman helped his team get off to a pretty good start with an 8-1 rout in Atlanta, which pushed their lead over the second-place Thrashers to 16 points.
Check out my game story here and then come on back for a few additional notes/quotes/observations:
*When Semyon Varlamov returns from his groin/knee injuries, Coach Bruce Boudreau is going to have a heck of a problem on his hands - three capable goalies and two spots on the roster.
Michal Neuvirth has yielded two or fewer goals in six of his last seven games after a 38-save performance tonight that included 18 stops in the first period. With every start the 21-year-old rookie makes, he looks more and more confident. Tonight might have been his best NHL performance yet.
*When I asked Bruce Boudreau if Poti had been given the "green light" to jump up into the play more, the coach said. "He took it." Poti had a goal and and two assists, which extended his point streak to five games.
Boudreau's hypothesis? Getting the alternate captain's 'A' full-time after Chris Clark was dealt has give him a confidence boost.
"I think he's gotten a lot confidence out of that," Boudreau said. "I don't know but that's my feeling. He's played differently since he wasn't just an 'A' because someone was injured, that he was an 'A' full time. He took off. Whatever it's been, it's good."
*John Erskine took one shift in the third period and did not return. The team did not comment on the nature or extent of the injury.
*Quote of the night came from Johan Hedberg, who was chased from the Atlanta net after yielding four goals on nine shots: "The lesson learned tonight is that we need to play better."
*The Thrashers are a mess. I thought they played well in the first period, but it was rather clear that they checked out about midway through the second. They've now lost 10 of 11 and, according to TSN, GM Don Waddell is starting to look around for trade options - just in case he can't sign Ilya Kovalchuk.
*Speaking of Kovalchuk, the Thrashers captain didn't record a point for the third straight game and was a minus-3 tonight. He did, however, finish with a game-high seven shots - one more than Alex Ovechkin, who also had a quiet night points-wise, notching only an assist on Mike Knuble's second goal.
*After dominating in the faceoff circle in his first two games at center, Tomas Fleischmann came back down to Earth tonight. He won only six of 19 draws (32 percent).
*Alexander Semin's shorthanded goal was only the Capitals second this season. But it underscored an improving penalty kill, which has snuffed out 15 of the last 17 shorthanded situations the team has faced. Part of that is due to the fact that the Caps are doing a much better job in the discipline department (I'll have a story on their declining number of minor penalties in the next few days).
Sounds like the Caps are off tomorrow in Tampa. But if there's any update on Erskine, I'll post something.