Sorry for the delay folks, but I had to take care of a few things before blogging this afternoon. Anyway, here's what you need to know about tonight's game:
Jose Theodore will start tonight at Scottrade Center as the Caps attempt to bounce back from back-to-back and head out on the Olympic break on a winning note. He'll face Chris Mason, who shutout the Maple Leafs, 4-0, last night. The Blues, meantime, have not lost at home to the Caps since the 1996-97 season, winning all seven games.
This game could be the last for one (or more) of the current Caps. GM George McPhee will face some tough decisions before his team's next game March 3 in Buffalo - opening faceoff is about four hours after the NHL's trade deadline. I'm hearing McPhee is in the market for a defenseman and a forward, likely a center.
As for tonight's game, there will be some changes to the Caps' lineup. As you've probably seen by now, John Carlson has been recalled and will look to steady the team's struggling blueline. It was tough to figure out which defenseman he'll be paired with, but it appears that John Erskine and Tyler Sloan will be the scratches after the tandem had a rough night in Ottawa on Thursday. Tom Poti (groin muscle strain) is also out.
"Carlson has played good for us before, and we've been struggling, so I wanted to take another look at him," Boudreau said.
He added: "It's a six man thing. We've been standing around back there just watching the other teams, not moving our legs, not being proactive in our coverage. When you start chasing in your own zone instead of cutting people off, you get in trouble."
Karl Alzner remains with the team and will play, but Chris Bourque is headed back to Hershey after just one game with the big club.
Based on the skate, the forward lines are also going to feature a new look. Top trio will be the familiar Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Mike Knuble combo. The rest of the lines, however, were scrambled for two reasons: Jason Chimera has been placed on IR with a groin muscle strain, and because Coach Bruce Boudreau wanted to put Tomas Fleischmann back on the wing. Fleischmann has struggled lately on faceoffs, winning just five of 25 draws in the team's losses to the Canadiens and Senators. (I'm told the Fleischmann-to-center isn't completely dead, it could just be taking a hiatus.)
So with Fleischmann on the wing, that means the second line will be Brooks Laich-Brendan Morrison-Alexander Semin. The third line will be Fleischmann-David Steckel-Eric Fehr and the fourth line will be Quintin Laing-Boyd Gordon-Matt Bradley.
Two more notes:
*How do you know that the coach you cover is a hockey junkie? When he attends an NHL game on his off day. Boudreau watched the Blues-Leafs game from the pressbox Friday night.
"I was just like a media guy up there," Boudreau said, "eating popcorn, man."
"They're very good," he added. "I was very impressed with Chris Mason. He was in total control. And their young players that you read about all the time were really good as well. They played with a lot of energy."
*The Caps' Olympians -- Ovechkin, Semin, Semyon Varlamov, Fleischmann and Backstrom -- are flying from St. Louis to Vancouver tomorrow.