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Posted at 09:34 AM ET, 10/04/2010

The home stretch of training camp

Following a wake-up call from the Predators on Sunday, the Capitals were even more focused on getting to the regular season and moving on to games that count.

"I think as a group we just want the real stuff to start," Tom Poti said. "The preseason really doesn't mean much. You just want to try to be firing on all cylinders when the regular season starts. We want to be crisp, we want to be sharp and fine tune our system. We just have to make sure that by game one, there's no questions about the system or how we want to do things, and we have several days of practice to keep working on that."

So given that everything in the preseason is taken with a grain of salt, now that the Capitals have wrapped up a 5-1 exhibition schedule and are four days away from the regular season opener in Atlanta on Friday, what questions remain as prominent as ever?

-- Which forwards make the regular-season roster? The battle for likely two open forward positions that has been discussed since the start of training camp didn't have any obvious answers at the conclusion of the preseason.

In the competition for the third-line center spot, both Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault have things they can improve upon but neither will impact team speed or play-making ability negatively. The biggest surprise here may be how well Johansson has adjusted to the North American style of game. Despite his lack of success on faceoffs, his natural defensive instincts are a definite asset should the Capitals elect to have him in the mix when the season starts.

As for the other position, and a chance to be perhaps part of a rotation on the fourth line, it's hard to say that Jay Beagle , Andrew Gordon or Matt Hendricks has really separated himself from the others.

-- Can both Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth stay healthy? This is more of a question that will need the full season to play out, but it still impacts depth now. The team has been very cautious in handling Varlamov's undisclosed injury (or any player's, for that matter), making sure he took time to rest since being ruled out of a preseason game last Tuesday. Things will certainly get interesting if they can't remain healthy throughout the course of the season.

The good news, though, is that Neuvirth has consistently improved throughout the preseason and said he was "finally feeling like myself" in a sharp performance against Nashville.

-- While the penalty kill may still be a work in progress, it certainly appears as though the players have all bought in to the more aggressive approach that the coaches wanted to instill in the unit during camp. Also, get used to seeing some more of the Caps' skilled forwards drawing shifts on the penalty kill this season.

Preseason success for the unit has created a definite sense of optimism in improving one of the Capitals' larger weaknesses from last year, but the ultimate test is how the penalty killers fare over the length of the season.

-- How will the Capitals' defensive pairings shake out? It appears as though John Erskine and Tyler Sloan will play a rotational role as the team's sixth defenseman on any given night, but it's hard to know who they will be playing with. Coach Bruce Boudreau has said he isn't afraid to put Karl Alzner and John Carlson together because of the chemistry they've demonstrated in the past, which could lead to veteran Poti playing with either Erskine or Sloan, assuming Mike Green and Jeff Schultz stay together as the top pairing.

-- Can Tomas Fleischmann stick in the second-line center role? He's been given the opportunity, but after he sat out a few preseason games and practices, it's hard to read too much into training camp.

IN THE MINORS
Hershey has made its latest round of cuts. Five players, including Anton Gustafsson, were sent to South Carolina.

After spending a chunk of his offseason rehabbing a knee injury, Zach Miskovic appears to have rebounded well.

Defenseman Josh Godfrey may have helped his cause by playing with a hard-hitting edge when the Bears defeated Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 5-1, on Saturday night.

AROUND THE WEB
Former Capital Brendan Morrison is still looking for a new team after being released from his professional tryout contract with the Vancouver Canucks.

The latest addition to the new slate of advertisements featuring the Capitals is the NHL's new campaign for the start of the season, "Questions will become answers". Below is Alex Ovechkin's installment:

By  |  09:34 AM ET, 10/04/2010

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