Jose Theodore is expected to start in net tonight at GM Place as the Caps go for their second straight win and ninth in 11 games. The Canucks are expected to start Roberto Luongo.
Coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn't divulge his lines and pairings, but I think it's safe to say that they will remain unchanged from Tuesday's 6-1 rout in Denver.
That means Kyle Wilson will center the third line and look to keep his points streak intact. Okay, so he's only played one NHL game. But what a debut it was for the 25-year-old Colgate grad on Tuesday in Denver, where he had two assists and a breakaway.
"He does a lot of good things," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Wilson. "He got a chance, and [now he's] got to say, 'I want to keep this chance.' He's made the most of the first game. But as we all know, with young guys -- and I know from way too much personal experience -- you have to keep it going, keep it going until it sinks in with upper management that this guy can play. Hopefully he can continue it tonight."
"He can skate and has good size for a centerman and can make plays," Boudreau added. "Now it's just putting it all together on a consistent basis, which is what we've always worried about [with] Kyle."
Mike Green and Shaone Morrisonn appear set to return to the lineup after missing the third period against Colorado with injuries.
The injury news was not so good on Semyon Varlamov. He participated in his first full practice this morning since suffering a groin muscle pull in Tampa on Dec. 7. He said he did not feel any pain but there was a twinge, which forced him to back off a bit. The rookie goalie said he won't be able to return tomorrow, but still considers Wednesday to be an option -- as long as he doesn't have a setback.
Some other notes and quotes from the morning skate:
*With Michael Nylander off the roster, the Caps suddenly have a lot of space under the salary cap ceiling. But I'm told by a team source that having space doesn't necessarily mean the plan is to spend back up to the ceiling. Remember, ownership is still on the hook for all of Nylander's $5.5 salary and adding another big salary would only compound the team's losses for this season.
That said, GM George McPhee has the green light to go after a rental (or two) at the deadline.
*Boyd Gordon (back) and Quintin Laing (broken jaw) are on the trip and ready to return to the lineup, Boudreau said. But Brian Pothier (rib) will miss another week or two, the coach added.
*Nicklas Backstrom is two games shy of 200 for his career and four points short of 200. Great stat from the team's game notes: Backstrom's seven goals in the last eight games have come on 24 shots (29.2 percent); Before that, he had four goals on 61 shots.
*Although this is the Caps' only trip to Vancouver this season, it might not be the only visit for a number of their players. As many as seven might suit up in February for their respective countries in the Olympics, including Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Semyon Varlamov (Russia); Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden); Tomas Fleischmann (Czech Republic); Milan Jurcina (Slovakia) and Mike Green (Canada).
Everywhere you look in Vancouver, the city is getting ramped up for what figures to be a memorable tournament. The Olympic rings are on just about everything, including a barge in Coal Harbour just outside my hotel window that's got 14-meter tall rings that alternate colors.
*Boudreau on Fleischmann, who is tied with Semin for second on the team in goals with 13 (scored in only 23 games): "We asked him to get stronger. When I had him in Hershey he was 173 pounds. Last year he was 183 and this year he's 192 pounds. And you don't notice any difference. It's all muscle. Now he's got the strength to muscle guys. That's helping him a lot. And in the high-traffic areas, he's out-muscling guys because he's got as much skill as anyone else."
*The Caps have scored a league-best 65 goals on the road. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Luongo has anything to say about that tonight.