For the second time in a month, the Caps had problems with their charter flight service. As a result, the team arrived in Atlanta around 10:30 this morning instead of yesterday afternoon.
The delay left equipment managers scrambling to get pads, jerseys and skates ready for the morning skate here at Philips Arena. It also upset the players' road trip routine.
"We're getting to know each other real well in a confined area," Coach Bruce Bodureau cracked. "The bonding is becoming better and better."
When the Caps experienced a similar delay last month, they got hammered that night by a struggling Maple Leafs' team, 6-3, at Air Canada Centre. On that trip, the team had been scheduled to fly late at night following a home game, but was grounded because sparks were seen coming from underneath the plane prior to takeoff at Dulles Airport. The players were sent home around 2 a.m. and reconvened a few hours later and left around 10 a.m. They arrived in Toronto too late to have a morning skate.
Yesterday, takeoff was aborted twice - just as the plane gathered speed down the runway - because of a faulty emergency door sensor. Mechanics worked on the problem, but the flight was ultimately canceled for precautionary reasons.
According to the original itinerary, the Caps were scheduled to leave at 2 p.m. The players, coaches and support staff sat on the plane until 6, hoping that the charter service, Miami Air, could bring in another jet from Toronto (which had just dropped off the Penguins). But when it looked like a four hour delay might become a five or six hour delay, Boudreau ordered everyone to go home for the night.
The Caps finally left at 8:15 this morning. The key difference between this debacle and last month's was that the team arrived in time to have a morning skate.
Still, players were sour about having to drive home and then get up early this morning and drive back to Dulles.
"It's pain in the [butt] and out of the ordinary because everyone had to get up early to make it there in time," Mike Knuble said. "All of sudden you're in a hurry instead of having all the time in the world."
Boudreau acknowledged that the situation is less than ideal. But he also said the Caps won't use their travel issues as an excuse tonight against the Thrashers.
"There should be no excuse," Boudreau said. "They all got home at dinner hour, they probably all had good dinner and spent the night in their own bed, with their family. We're on time for everything [this morning] as far as meetings go and meals."
"We can make a big thing of it and use it as a crutch," he added. "Or we can just say, 'It's a mishap, the plane never took off and they were looking at safety first, which is always the most important thing. We're here now and we're ready to go.'"
So will it be the former or latter? We'll know in a few hours.
A couple of notes from the morning skate:
*Michal Neuvirth will start tonight against Ilya Kovalchuk and Thrashers. Jose Theodore, however, is expected to get another start on this three-game Southeast Division swing, Boudreau said.
*Based on the morning skate, looks like Tyler Sloan and Quintin Laing are the odd men out tonight.
I"ll check in later with a lineup.