Depleted Capitals Limp Into Toronto
Monday, October 29, 2007
TORONTO, Oct. 28 -- Two days after struggling in St. Louis minus Chris Clark, Alexander Semin and Tom Poti, the Washington Capitals could again find themselves without three of their most important players Monday night as they aim to snap a two-game losing streak against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Clark, who suffered a severely lacerated left ear when he was struck by an Alex Ovechkin slap shot Friday, did not accompany the Capitals on the road trip.
Semin, who is day-to-day after aggravating his sprained right ankle against the Blues, also is not expected to be in the Capitals' lineup when they face Mats Sundin (18 points) and the Maple Leafs, who are 2-0-1 in their last three games.
Poti, meantime, will likely test his strained groin muscle in the morning skate before deciding whether to play. The Capitals' leader in ice time, Poti has missed the past two games.
Still, Coach Glen Hanlon refused to use the Capitals' thin lineup as an excuse for their slump.
"We definitely need those people, but it's an opportunity for other people to step forward," Hanlon said. "We have people who are fighting for their NHL lives here. If you give up that many minutes, someone's going to have an opportunity to step up and play."
Against St. Louis "it was Mike Green who stepped up and took Tom Poti's offensive slot," he added. "We need someone in the forward group to take these 20 minutes from Alexander Semin, and we need some on the power play to take the six or seven minutes he plays there. That's the way I'm looking at it."
The Maple Leafs find themselves in similarly sad shape. They won't have forwards Darcy Tucker (right knee) and Kyle Wellwood (groin) or defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo (knee) and Bryan McCabe (groin).
The Capitals are 0-7 this season in 5-on-3 power-play situations for a total of 6 minutes 33 seconds. In their 4-3 loss in St. Louis, the Capitals were 0 for 3 with the two-man advantage (for a total of 2 minutes 24 seconds).
"They say if you don't score on your five-on-threes, you don't win the hockey game," Hanlon said. "It's kind of tough when both teams don't score on their five-on-threes. Someone's got to win the game. So maybe we threw that saying out the window."
Despite its failure on two-man advantages, Washington's power play has improved slightly since Hanlon began stacking his unit two games ago instead of employing two equally balanced groups. The Capitals are 3 for 12 since the change in strategy, and have moved up to 21st in the league rankings through Saturday's games (14 percent effectiveness rate).
Close to Home
With Saturday night's game in St. Louis behind them, the Capitals won't leave the Eastern time zone again until March 18-19, when they play in Nashville and Chicago. Washington's travel next season, however, likely won't be as favorable if the NHL adopts a proposal to return to a traditional schedule, requiring clubs to play in the other 29 NHL cities at least once. . . . Given the day off Sunday, the players and coaching staff visited the Hockey Hall of Fame.