Alzner, Bourque Bidding To Stay

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 6, 2008

Now comes the hard part for the Washington Capitals and General Manager George McPhee.

Yesterday's 5-4 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins completed the third best preseason in franchise history (5-1-1), but now McPhee is faced with the tough task of trimming his roster by at least two players before Wednesday's 3 p.m. deadline for submitting opening night rosters.

As of last night, 16 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders remained in training camp. The roster maximum is 23, but given the team's tight salary cap situation, it's possible McPhee will opt to keep only 21 or 22 in an effort to build cap space for future use. If McPhee intends to waive a player, the move must be made by Tuesday.

Two prospects -- Chris Bourque and first-year pro Karl Alzner -- did not make McPhee's decision any easier with their performances against the Bruins. Both already were making strong bids to force their way onto the team, and in their final audition, Bourque scored the game-tying goal late in the third period, while Alzner picked up his second assist of the night on the play.

"I thought that was pretty apropos," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Bourque and Alzner teaming up for the tying tally. "That's the first thing I thought. It's not as easy as you would think, to put guys in and put guys out. We've got some tough decisions to make."

McPhee, who is surrounded by his scouting staff this week as the team conducts organizational meetings, declined to comment.

Bourque, meantime, hopes his play will force McPhee to make room for him.

"I feel like I had a pretty good camp," said Bourque, the 22-year-old son of Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque. "I feel I made it hard for them. That was main thing here, making it hard for them."

After a pause, he said: "I want to be a Washington Capital more than anything. This is where I see myself playing this year."

The 5-foot-7 Bourque played much bigger than his size in six exhibition games. He finished with three goals and three assists. But he does not have to clear waivers before being sent to the minors and is attempting to crack a Capitals' lineup that has more proven NHL forwards than in recent seasons.

Alzner, meantime, had one of his best performances as a professional. But he, too, can be demoted without clearing waivers. Alzner's cap hit could play a role in McPhee's decision. The 20-year-old could earn as much as $1.675 million with incentives, and this season, there is no 7.5-percent cushion to cover the costs of bonuses since the players association has the option to terminate the collective bargaining agreement after this season.

"It [stinks] that it has to be like that, but everywhere there's rules," Alzner said after the game. "In my situation, there's nothing I can do about it. But I want to play here."

Veteran Quintin Laing, meantime, also remains on Washington's roster. A career journeyman who became a fan favorite for his selfless shot-blocking last season, he appeared in only one preseason game.

"We could have him not dress for six months and he'd play the same way the first game back," Boudreau said when asked whether Laing's lack of playing time was an indication of his status in Washington. "He would give you 120 percent, and we love him here."

Despite the loss, the Capitals will enter the regular season with momentum.

"Ottawa was undefeated in the preseason [last year], and they started out tremendously and then they faded," Boudreau said. "The Detroit Lions started 4-0 in the preseason and I don't know what their record is but it's not undefeated. I think what we harp on is [good] habits."

Capitals Notes: Chris Clark, Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Bourque scored for Washington. José Théodore had an uneven performance, yielding four goals on 44 shots and two on two shootout attempts.

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