By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 10, 2009
BUFFALO -- Washington Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov was a scratch against the Buffalo Sabres because of a groin muscle strain he suffered Monday.
Varlamov, who has arguably been the Capitals' best player in recent weeks and has emerged as a candidate for rookie of the year, got hurt while making a save on the Lightning's final shot of Washington's 3-0 win in Tampa.
The 21-year-old didn't take part in the morning skate, but was seen walking around HSBC Arena without a limp. Coach Bruce Boudreau said he hopes Varlamov, who is listed as day-to-day, will return to practice on Friday and be well enough to start Saturday in Toronto.
With Varlamov out, the Capitals recalled prospect Michal Neuvirth from the minor league Hershey Bears to back up veteran José Theodore against the Sabres. Neuvirth is 10-5-0 with a 1.99 goals against average and .929 save percentage in Hershey.
The injury has put Varlamov on the sideline just as he appeared to be hitting his stride. His 26-save performance in Tampa marked his second shutout in four games and boosted his record to 12-1-2. In his past nine games, he is 7-0-2 with a 1.53 goals against average and .945 save percentage.Boo birds in Buffalo
Alex Ovechkin is booed in many away rinks, but few fan bases are more vociferous than Buffalo's in their disapproval of the Capitals' star. Ovechkin said he hears it, but doesn't let the booing bother him.
"Fans love me," he said. "I love them. Some fans like my style of game, some fans no. Everybody have a different mind and everybody can think whatever they want. It doesn't matter what happen, whether they boo me or not, I still love them because they are fans who come to watch hockey game and they support their team and not us." . . .
Michael Nylander, who has not suited up for the Capitals since the playoffs and was banished from the team earlier this season, was placed on waivers for the second time Wednesday.
The veteran center went unclaimed last month but must clear waivers again (and every 30 days) in order for the Capitals to loan him to a team outside of the NHL.
The Capitals have been attempting to rid themselves of the 37-year-old and his contract, which has the team up against the salary cap ceiling, since last season. . . .
Right wing Matt Bradley, who returned to Washington on Monday for the birth of his son, did not rejoin the team in Buffalo. . . . The Capitals recalled Keith Aucoin from Hershey to take the place of rookie Mathieu Perreault, who reported feeling ill Wednesday morning. . . .
Right wing Mike Knuble has missed the past 11 games with a broken finger, but if he receives clearance from team doctor Ben Shaffer on Thursday, he could make his return Friday against Carolina. . . .
John Erskine was a healthy scratch.