By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 3, 2008
With roughly a week remaining until the Washington Capitals must settle on a 23-man opening night roster, Coach Bruce Boudreau and General Manager George McPhee continue to weigh all options.
During yesterday's practice, Boudreau had veteran center Sergei Fedorov line up as a defenseman, a position Fedorov has played sporadically throughout his NHL career.
"Do we want to carry seven natural defensemen?" Boudreau said at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "Do we want to carry six natural defensemen? If you've got a guy that can go up and back, that gives you a little more flexibility on the [roster] decision you're going to make."
About an hour before practice started, the Capitals made another round of cuts. Defensemen Sami Lepisto, Grant McNeill and Tyler Sloan as well as goaltender Simeon Varlamov were re-assigned to Hershey (Pa.) of the American Hockey League, trimming the roster to 25.
The demotion of Lepisto, McNeill and Sloan left the Capitals with seven defensemen, including rookie Karl Alzner, who has performed solidly but has yet to secure a spot. Starting Alzner in Hershey would give the first-year professional time to mature while also providing the Capitals with some salary cap flexibility. (Alzner could earn as much as $1.675 million this season and the team is close to the ceiling of $56.7 million.)
Sending him down, however, would also leave the Capitals with only six defensemen. Which is where the Fedorov experiment comes in. The 38-year-old three-time Stanley Cup champion, who had a stint as a defenseman during one of Detroit's playoff runs, could provide some insurance if there's an injury.
Asked about Alzner's status, Boudreau said: "He's played well, and he played well again [in Philadelphia]. We have a week. He's a young guy who has played four games pro, five if you count [the preseason] last year. We just want to see more of him."
As for Fedorov, transitioning to defense isn't a big deal. In addition to playing on the blue line with the Red Wings, he also has spent time there in Columbus, Anaheim and briefly with Washington last season.
"I don't mind doing it all," Fedorov said, joking that it could result in more ice time for him. "We're just flirting with the idea. Coach has asked me to do it, and I'm happy to do that. I'm comfortable to do that. There are just a couple of things I have to sharpen up on coverage."
Fedorov is expected to skate on defense during tonight's exhibition game against the Flyers. During yesterday's practice, Fedorov was paired with Jeff Schultz.
"We want him to get some sort of an idea of how we play on defense," Boudreau said. "Nothing more than that. We might try him on defense for [today's] game, just to get him a feel for it in case he has to go back there someday. It's a lot of stuff we're experimenting with. Because I don't want to experiment at all come next Thursday and Friday."