Capitals Notebook

Brian Pothier is expected to play for the Capitals after missing 11 games

Brian Pothier, left, had three goals in a six-game stretch.
Brian Pothier, left, had three goals in a six-game stretch. "I sort of realized that it was okay to jump into the play," he said. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 7, 2010

Offensive-minded defenseman Brian Pothier is expected to return to the Washington Capitals' lineup Thursday against the Ottawa Senators after missing 11 games with a cracked rib. And it's not a moment too soon for Coach Bruce Boudreau, who recently lamented his team's dearth of scoring from defensemen not named Mike Green.

Despite missing more than a month, Pothier ranks second among Capitals defensemen in goals (three) and fourth in points (eight). While those numbers may not seem impressive, all but one of the points were amassed from Nov. 6 to Nov. 23, giving Boudreau and Pothier hope that the 32-year-old, a pending unrestricted free agent, is primed for a strong second half.

"Something clicked," Pothier said Wednesday of his pre-injury offensive surge. "I sort of realized that it was okay to jump into the play, and play offensively, and be the fourth man and contribute."

But that confidence turned into frustration in a matter of seconds on Dec. 9 in Buffalo. Pothier felt a sharp pain in his side while attempting to box out an opposing forward in front of the Capitals' net.

"Sleeping, breathing, coughing, sneezing, laughing, twisting, anything with your rib cage, it all hurt," he said after Wednesday's practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

Pothier wound up in a familiar spot: on injured reserve, where he spent half of the 2007-08 season and almost all of 2008-09 recovering from post-concussion syndrome.

The question now is whether Pothier can rediscover the scoring touch he had in November.

"I know we have a lot of bodies here," said Pothier, who is expected to see spot duty on the power play. "I need to prove that I can stay healthy, head-wise. If I can contribute offensively and help the team, hopefully they'll want to keep me around."

Steckel, Sloan extended

Fourth-line center and faceoff specialist David Steckel has signed a three-year contract extension that will keep him in Washington through the 2012-13 season. The contract will pay $1.1 million per season, which is a raise from $725,000.

Steckel has struggled offensively this season, amassing two goals and three assists. But he leads the NHL in faceoff percentage (61.9 percent) and is 11th in average short-handed ice time per game among forwards (2 minutes 57 seconds per game).

"Offensively, I have more to give," Steckel said. "I think I can put up offensive numbers like I did in the playoffs last year."

The 27-year-old had three goals and two assists in 14 playoff games, including an overtime tally in Game 6 of the semifinal series against Pittsburgh.

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