Washington Capitals Put Through Hard Practice After Blowout Loss to Buffalo Sabres

Capitals goalie José Theodore reacts after the Sabres scored their third goal of the first period. Theodore had 22 saves in the game.
Capitals goalie José Theodore reacts after the Sabres scored their third goal of the first period. Theodore had 22 saves in the game. (By Don Heupel -- Associated Press)
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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 3, 2008

Yesterday had been a scheduled day off from practice for the Washington Capitals, a rare chance to recharge before the regular season grind intensifies later this month.

But after Saturday's 5-0 blowout in Buffalo, the Capitals' most lopsided defeat since March, Coach Bruce Boudreau revoked their respite. Instead, a scowling Boudreau presided over a practice he called the toughest of his tenure.

The hour-long session, conducted with General Manager George McPhee and majority owner Ted Leonsis watching from a perch above the rink at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, began and ended with sprints that left most of the Capitals hunched over and gasping for air. When the end-to-end dashes, tongue-lashings and whistle-blowing were over, the exhausted players dropped to their knees at center ice for a group stretch. Barely a word was spoken.

"If they're not going to work to our standards during the game, then they're going to work that hard during practice," Boudreau said. "Everyone would have loved to have had Sunday off and relax and enjoy themselves. But this isn't a country club."

It didn't matter that some players are nursing minor injuries. Everyone was on the ice, with the exception of Shaone Morrisonn and Alex Ovechkin. Morrisonn was hospitalized briefly in Buffalo after suffering an undisclosed internal injury in the second period Saturday. The defenseman's condition, however, isn't as bad as originally feared, Boudreau said; Morrisonn is listed as day-to-day. Ovechkin, meantime, was scheduled to return from Russia late last night, according to an associate of his. He has spent the past week visiting his ailing grandfather in Moscow.

If Morrisonn is unable to suit up for tomorrow's game in Ottawa, it's possible Sergei Fedorov will move to the blueline and skate with Mike Green. Ovechkin, barring a last-minute change of plans, is expected to practice today and face the Senators.

Even had Ovechkin played and Morrisonn managed to finish the game, it's unlikely the Capitals would have fared much better in Buffalo, given the miscues and uninspired performance of a few key players. Boudreau called out Green, Alexander Semin, Viktor Kozlov and José Theodore. Green accepted responsibility Saturday; yesterday Theodore, who ranked 34th in save percentage (.877) entering last night's games, did the same. He yielded a goal on the Sabres' first shot and four goals on 18 shots through 40 minutes, and might give way to backup Brent Johnson in Ottawa.

"As a goalie, it's my job to make the saves when the team is not ready," Theodore said. "I can bail out the team when they make some mistakes. . . . It doesn't matter if you have 10 shots or 50 shots, you try to give your team a chance to win. And [Saturday] night, obviously, I don't think I played the way I played the previous four or five games."

Captain Chris Clark knew what to expect yesterday when he arrived at the rink. That, however, didn't make the grueling skate any easier.

"Some guys respond to getting yelled at," he said. "Some guys respond negatively to getting yelled at. Some guys respond to not having a day off, which we were supposed to have. We're all professionals and we're paid to play for 60 minutes and guys are taking shifts off here and there. We all need to be accountable."

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