By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 18, 2009
For a second straight day, Washington Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau declined to divulge which goaltender he intends to start, preferring instead to keep the New York Rangers guessing.
These are, after all, the NHL playoffs, where injuries and lineups are treated as top-secret information.
But for the first time since José Theodore yielded four goals on 21 shots in the Capitals' Game 1 defeat on Wednesday, Boudreau seemed to tip his hand before backing off.
"You'll see [the starter] in the warmup," said Boudreau, who during the regular season regularly declined to name his starting goaltender. "But look it; it's not a big surprise. Theo is our number one goalie."
Asked if that meant it was "safe to assume" Theodore will start instead of rookie Simeon Varlamov, Boudreau retreated slightly: "Assume what you want to assume. But I'm not saying anything. I will think [New York goalie Henrik] Lundqvist is playing, though."
Theodore, meantime, said he's preparing as if he'll be between the pipes this afternoon at Verizon Center, where the Capitals will aim to improve to 4-0 all-time when losing Game 1 at home.
"Everything is just like usual," said Theodore, who has yielded 10 goals on the past 62 shots he has faced. "There's not much to talk about right now. He didn't say anything, but I'm assuming that I'm in."
One Capital who almost certainly won't play is defenseman Jeff Schultz. He did not practice for a second day in a row after suffering an injury on Wednesday, possibly when he was checked along the boards in the third period. Later, Schultz stumbled and fell on the play that led to Brandon Dubinsky's game-winner. Schultz played one more shift before leaving the game with about six minutes remaining.
Team officials would not comment on Schultz's injury other than to say that he's day-to-day. "We're hoping he makes a rapid recovery," Boudreau said. "We'll see."
Regardless of Schultz's status, Capitals defenseman Brian Pothier is expected to make his first postseason appearance since 2006 as a member of the Ottawa Senators. Pothier signed with Washington in July 2006 but missed the second half of last season and all but nine games this season while recovering from post-concussion syndrome.
"He played well for us down the stretch," Boudreau said. "I have no qualms about putting him in. I told him right after [Wednesday's] game, the next morning, that he was going to play."
Pothier's speed and agility could help the Capitals in an area where they struggled in Game 1: containing the Rangers' cadre of small and shifty forwards such as Dubinsky, Scott Gomez and Ryan Callahan. Gomez added a goal and two assists to Dubinsky's decisive tally.
"Speed is their biggest asset," Pothier said. "I like to play against smaller, faster teams. I think that suits me better. I hope I can close those gaps, so they're not coming with a lot of speed."
The Rangers are also hoping to get a boost from the return of a veteran. Captain Chris Drury is expected to play after missing two games with an undisclosed injury. He centers the second line with wingers Markus Naslund and Callahan and could help New York in the faceoff circle, where the Capitals won 70 percent (46 of 66) of the draws on Wednesday.
While the status of Drury won't officially be decided until game time, there's no debate over this: Both coaches were unhappy with the officiating. Yesterday, Boudreau responded to Rangers Coach John Tortorella's questioning of two calls in Game 1, when the Capitals had seven power plays to New York's four. He disagreed with the holding infraction that was assessed to defenseman Dan Girardi in the opening seconds and wondered why Capitals defenseman Mike Green was not whistled for his board-rattling hit on Fredrik Sjostrom.
"I thought if everything was [called] properly, they should have had 12 or 13 penalties instead of the seven they had," Boudreau said. "It's tough for referees to get them all, but I definitely think they got the benefit of it."
Boudreau said he didn't spend too much time dwelling on Wednesday's loss. He didn't want his players doing it, either, so at the end of a crisp practice yesterday, Boudreau had both goaltenders pick teams for a shootout competition.
Varlamov picked Alex Ovechkin first, then added Green, Alexander Semin and Sergei Fedorov, among others. Theodore, on the other hand, chose mostly grinders, including fellow Montreal native Donald Brashear, who gave him a hard time after he was selected last.
Team Varlamov, as expected, won easily.
"They were into it," Boudreau said. "But I wouldn't have done it if the practice hadn't gone as well as it did."
As for Theodore's team selections, Boudreau cracked: "Evidently, the GM in him wasn't that good today."
Capitals Notes: Right wing Chris Clark rotated in on the Tomas Fleischmann-Michael Nylander-Eric Fehr line during practice. But it appears unlikely he'll play in Game 2 after missing almost three months while recovering from wrist surgery. . . . Brashear has not played since spraining a knee on March 10, but the veteran enforcer confirmed that he could play if Boudreau tapped him. . . . The Rangers yesterday signed Hobey Baker Award winner Matt Gilroy of NCAA champion Boston University. The defenseman cannot play for the Rangers until next season.