Brashear Eligible to Play, but Might Not
Only two Washington Capitals practiced yesterday (in warmups, no pads): Brooks Laich and enforcer Donald Brashear, who served the final night of his six-game suspension for a hit on the Rangers' Blair Betts in the first round.
Brashear posted yesterday to his Twitter account: "just arrive in Pittsburg for game tomorrow. Suspension is over, hoping to b in the line up for the game."
But it doesn't sound like Coach Bruce Boudreau is in a hurry to put Brashear back in the lineup with Washington facing elimination against the Penguins tonight in Pittsburgh.
"It would be pretty tough at this point," Boudreau said.
Trio Might Be Split Up
Boudreau went back to the Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Viktor Kozlov combo in Game 5, and the trio responded with a solid performance. But it's unclear if he'll use the line tonight at Mellon Arena, where Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma will have the last change and thus a better chance of getting the matchup he wants.
"You can load everybody up, but it's not hard on the road to cover one line," Boudreau said. "It's an awful lot harder at home when we've got the last change and it's easier to load up and put them against who you want."
Comfortable on the Brink
Under Boudreau, the Caps have faced elimination six times (when including Game 7s). They are 5-1 in those games. And Boudreau is confident they can hold off a Penguins team that hasn't quite dominated the series, despite having a three-games-to-two-lead.
"You can count chances and count shots," Boudreau said. "They may have outshot us and that. But I think we know by now that [Game 6] will be determined in the third period or in overtime. [Game 5] was our best game of our series for sure, but it's not as good as we can play. We haven't reached the pinnacle. We can go better. I know the character of this group."
Boudreau Backs Poti
Defenseman Tom Poti has been involved in a couple of difficult situations the past two years in the playoffs -- he was in the box for the overtime goal in Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers last season and, of course, accidentally steered the puck into the net in overtime Saturday night. But Boudreau said Poti's been around long enough to not allow that to affect him tonight.
"It's not his first year," Boudreau said. "He's won games for us single-handedly. So I have no problem with Tom's [state]."
Refs Nab Wrong Guy?
The referees, in Boudreau's opinion, nabbed the wrong player for the tripping penalty in overtime of Game 5. And that, he said, could have had an effect on the winning goal.
"It's the quirk of things, how things happen," Boudreau said. "It was definitely a [Sergei] Fedorov trip, not a [Milan] Jurcina trip. And if Jurcina is on the ice and not in the box, then we don't have Fedorov on defense. [Malkin] probably doesn't go by Jurcina.
"It was a bad call," he added. "The ref has to pick up the right guy. Juice didn't touch him. He tried, but he didn't."
-- Tarik El-Bashir