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As the playoffs approach, Washington Capitals look for needed improvement in the penalty kill
The Capitals did not work on the penalty kill during Tuesday's practice, but Boudreau said it will be the focus of Thursday's on-ice and video sessions. It will also give them an opportunity to fully integrate newcomers Joe Corvo and Eric Belanger, who have taken short-handed shifts since being acquired last Wednesday.
There's hope within the organization that Belanger, a two-way center who played for Minnesota under defensive specialist Jacques Lemaire, will provide a significant boost.
Belanger and Corvo, speaking as relative outsiders, said Washington could benefit from putting more pressure on the opposing players and, thus, forcing them to beat the Capitals with deft passes or perfectly placed shots.
"Maybe we can put some more pressure on them and not let them stand around and make passes," Corvo said. "That's what we did in Carolina."
Belanger said, "From what I've seen, we're a little bit more passive here."
Belanger also said he has noticed a lack of confidence among the Capitals' penalty killers.
"When you're struggling in an area of the game, instead of moving and reacting, you're thinking and reacting," he said. "If you go through a stretch where you're killing every penalty, then the confidence will be back."
Time, though, is running out for the Capitals. The playoffs begin next month, and as they learned last spring, a leaky penalty kill in the postseason can sink a team.
"Against the Rangers, our penalty kill gave us an opportunity to win that series. Then, against the Penguins, our penalty killing wasn't as good and it contributed to us losing the series," said Evason, referring to the Capitals' 87.1 percent rate (four goals on 31 opportunities) against the Rangers and 73.5 percent rate (nine on 34) against the Penguins. "You would like to see [better] numbers [now]. But what we want to do with 16 games left is get it right so that we can win in the playoffs."
Capitals note: Right wing Dmitry Kurgryshev, a 2008 second-round draft pick, has signed a three-year entry level contract.