As I mentioned here last night, I could not adjust my travel schedule to attend practice in Ottawa this morning. But I just caught up with some of the players and Coach Bruce Boudreau here in St. Louis. So here's a quick update:
*Fourteen players took part in this morning's optional skate at Scotiabank Place, which is a lot for a team that has had as busy a schedule as the Caps in recent weeks and just played back-to-back games on the road. That tells me they're upset about the way things have gone in recent games and wanted show the coaching staff (and each other) that they haven't "checked out" early ahead of the upcoming Olympic break, which begins after Saturday's game in here against the Blues.
*Jason Chimera (groin strain) skated this morning, but is doubtful for tomorrow. Sounds like the training staff wants to let him heal up over the break and come back healthy.
*Tom Poti (groin strain) did not skate and won't play tomorrow. But Boudreau said he "has no doubt" that the veteran defenseman will be ready to go March 3 in Buffalo.
*Shaone Morrisonn (stomach flu) practiced and is expected to suit up tomorrow.
*Semyon Varlamov, one day after his first NHL action in more than two months, did not shown any adverse effects from the groin and knee injuries that had sidelined him, Boudreau said. So that means he's ready to join Team Russia for the Olympics. He'll back up Jose Theodore tomorrow.
*The NHL Olympic roster freeze went into effect at 3 p.m. A number of teams made moves, but the Caps stood pat.
I'm a lot behind, so I better get cracking on my story for tomorrow's paper, which will focus on the Caps' slow starts. After dominating first periods for much of the season, they've surrendered the first goal in each of the past six games and trailed after the first period in four of them.
There are some different theories about why this has happened. But everyone could agree on this much: It's got to stop.