Capitals Notebook

Goalie Jose Theodore Bidding to Become Washington Capitals' No. 1 Goalie

Capitals goalie José Theodore has stopped 64 of the last 68 shots he has seen, including 23 Sunday against Toronto.
Capitals goalie José Theodore has stopped 64 of the last 68 shots he has seen, including 23 Sunday against Toronto. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

With José Theodore riding a season-best three-game winning streak, the Washington Capitals are cautiously optimistic that the goaltender is on the verge becoming the No. 1 starter he was signed to be.

That optimism stems from a marked improvement in virtually all aspects of Theodore's play over the past eight periods, a turnaround that began after he was pulled by Coach Bruce Boudreau early in last Tuesday's comeback victory at Madison Square Garden.

Since Boudreau reinserted Theodore for the start of the second period, the 32-year-old veteran has stopped 64 of 68 shots for a Capitals team that has won eight of nine games to open a 10-point lead in the Southeast Division. In each of the past two games, he has gotten off to a strong start, looked more composed on routine stops and produced a number of game-altering ones.

Theodore attributed the turnaround to the increase in playing time. If he gets the nod tonight at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, as expected, it will mark just the second time this season that he has started four consecutive games.

"Since the beginning of the season, I've been feeling good for a couple of games, then I have one bad game, and I was anxious to get back in there, and I didn't get the call right away," Theodore said. "It's kind of tough. Like any position, when you have a bad game, you need to play again and bounce back right away and get on a roll. When you have a bad game and you get [benched], that's when you start to doubt yourself and start thinking more."

When Theodore's comments were relayed to Boudreau, he said: "It's something I would expect every player to say. If a player didn't say, 'The more I play, the better I get,' then you really don't want him on your team."

"The last 2 1/2 games, Theo's played really well," he added. "I don't know if the word is confidence. I don't know if the word is focus. I don't know if the word is playing up to your capabilities. But he's playing better."

With Brent Johnson set to back up Theodore at HSBC Arena after missing two games because of a hip injury, prospect Simeon Varlamov was returned to the minor league Hershey Bears.

Injury Report

The status of defenseman Karl Alzner and enforcer Donald Brashear won't be known until the morning skate. Alzner was struck on his right hand twice by shots in Sunday's 4-1 win over Toronto; Brashear is believed to be nursing the leg bruise that caused him to miss a game last week. Neither player practiced yesterday.

"It's just a bruise," said Alzner, who ranks third among defensemen on the Capitals in ice time (21:39) and has yet to take a penalty in 16 NHL games. "The second [shot] put it over the top a little bit."

Boudreau said the team likely would recall a defenseman just in case Alzner is unable to suit up. If Brashear can't play, left wing Chris Bourque, summoned from Hershey yesterday, will get into his first game with the Capitals in a month. . . .

Tomas Fleischmann (pneumonia), Alexander Semin (back), Sergei Fedorov (ankle), Tom Poti (groin) and John Erskine (concussion) are out.

All-Star Possibilities

Boudreau might want to start looking into hotel reservations for the weekend of Jan. 24-25 in Montreal, site of this season's all-star game. The NHL will take the coaches from the top two teams in each conference (based on points percentage) as of Jan. 10, and entering last night's games, the Capitals were second in the East behind the Boston Bruins.

While Boudreau's status is undecided, Alex Ovechkin is almost certain to make the team, though it does not appear he will be voted into the starting lineup by fans. Nicklas Backstrom, with 36 points in his past 25 games, is making a strong case to be tapped, while Mike Green, whose eight goals are fourth among defensemen, is also garnering consideration. Alzner, meantime, could be named to the YoungStars game.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company