Capitals Goalie Brent Johnson Hopes for Fast Return

Capitals goalie Brent Johnson, hurt against Carolina on Wednesday night, did not practice yesterday but expects to back up José Theodore tonight.
Capitals goalie Brent Johnson, hurt against Carolina on Wednesday night, did not practice yesterday but expects to back up José Theodore tonight. (By Karl B. Deblaker -- Associated Press)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 14, 2008

Less than a day after suffering a hip injury in the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals goaltender Brent Johnson was optimistic he won't miss any playing time. Though he was held out of practice as a precaution, Johnson said he anticipates backing up José Theodore tonight when the Capitals open a home-and-home series with the Martin Brodeur-less New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center.

While the timing of the injury couldn't be worse for Johnson -- with a 3-0-1 record in his previous four games, he was playing his best since joining the Capitals in 2005 -- it provides Theodore the opportunity to prove he can become the team's undisputed No. 1 goalie.

Theodore stopped all 13 shots he faced in relief of Johnson at RBC Center to clinch the Capitals' 5-1 victory, their fourth in a row.

"It was fun to get in there, and I'm looking forward to getting back starting some games," said Theodore, who ranks 28th in goals against average (3.16) and 33rd in save percentage (.884). He has not started since a 5-0 loss in Buffalo on Nov. 1.

Theodore said not playing has allowed him time to refine his game under the tutelage of goaltending coach Dave Prior. Yesterday, he had a long conversation with Prior after practice, then returned to the crease for another 20 minutes of one-on-one practice.

"I've been working hard and I'm not that far out of being on top of my game," said Theodore, who after the Carolina game was presented with the hard hat, awarded to the team's unsung hero after wins.

Theodore will face a Devils team that has lost three straight and four of five since losing Brodeur, a four-time Vezina Trophy winner who is out three to four months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn biceps. They have lost three straight and four of five, including a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday in which Brodeur's replacement, Kevin Weekes, was pulled and replaced by Scott Clemmensen.

The opposing goalie, however, won't be the Capitals' primary concern. Not falling into the Devils' trap will be, Coach Bruce Boudreau said.

"It sounds so easy," Boudreau said. "But when you get into the game and you're going full speed and you want to do something you're accustomed to doing, to stop and not do it, it's tough."

The Devils' 4-3 shootout win Oct. 18 is the Capitals' only loss in their past 13 regular season home games (12-0-1).

Morrisonn Practices

Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, who has missed a week because of a groin muscle pull, returned to practice yesterday, but it remains unclear whether he'll be able to play.

Morrisonn, who was hurt when he pivoted from front to backward skating in the first period of a 3-2 win over Carolina on Nov. 6, hinted that poor ice conditions at Verizon Center might have contributed to his injury.

"I was surprised . . . bad ice," he said before softening his stance. "I don't know. I don't think I know how it was caused. . . . Bad luck."

Center Sergei Fedorov, who has not skated with the team since limping off in the third period of the same game last week, is expected to participate in the morning skate today, Boudreau said, but likely won't play tonight. . . .

The Capitals signed 2008 first-round draft pick John Carlson to a three-year entry-level contract. The 18-year-old defenseman was one of the surprises of training camp and has impressed with London of the Ontario Hockey League, where he has two goals and 10 assists in 12 games.

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