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Right wing Andrew Gordon takes his shot at cracking the Washington Capitals' opening night lineup

Right wing Andrew Gordon, shown in a 2008 photo, skates during a Washington Capitals Development Camp. He is trying to crack the team's 2010 opening day roster. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
Right wing Andrew Gordon, shown in a 2008 photo, skates during a Washington Capitals Development Camp. He is trying to crack the team's 2010 opening day roster. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
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By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 22, 2010; 11:51 PM

COLUMBUS, OHIO -- Andrew Gordon admits he's not the flashiest player. He won't try to beat an opposing team by himself, or look to put on intricate skating displays as he out-maneuvers defensemen. He prefers a simple, reliable style.

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"I dump the puck in the corner a lot, I go after it, make some plays where I can and go to the net and collect a lot of rebounds," Gordon said earlier this week. "I think the simplicity of my game and just how uncomplicated it is has really helped me have success as I've gone up the ladder to this point."

The Halifax, Nova Scotia, native now hopes that those traits, combined with his affable nature and work ethic, will help him have a shot at cracking the Washington Capitals' opening night lineup.

Gordon is in a unique situation where if he would be reassigned to the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears, he would have to pass through waivers, and the 6-foot, 195-pound right wing has enough upside that it's not hard to imagine another NHL team picking him up.

But the Capitals already have 12 players signed to one-way NHL contracts (not counting Michael Nylander) and are committed to adding another center, likely Mathieu Perreault or Marcus Johansson, to that group. That leaves one more forward spot open, given Washington's intent to carry only seven defensemen this season, under the league-maximum roster size of 23.

Gordon, 24, refuses to worry about any of that, though. He understands that even a breakout AHL season, like the one he had last year in Hershey when he tallied 71 points and 37 goals in the regular season and another 20 points and 13 goals in the Calder Cup playoffs, doesn't guarantee much.

"This is the first year that there's really been even a remote opportunity for an opening for me" in Washington, Gordon said. "A good year in the American league doesn't mean you're NHL ready. Guys like [Keith] Aucoin and [Alexandre] Giroux, they score 100 points a year and they're still trying to make lineups [in the NHL].

"I feel like I've worked hard enough to earn an opportunity, but it's a numbers game."

Of all non-Capitals regulars in this training camp though, Coach Bruce Boudreau said Gordon is "as close to NHL ready as there is." With Washington's roster rather full at right wing though, Gordon must continue to produce and try to outperform the others in the mix.

Gordon played just fewer than 16 minutes in Washington's preseason opener on Wednesday, a 6-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, but did not record a point.

What remains in Gordon's favor, however, is that in recent seasons he's learned how to use his strength in front of the net and has transformed from the pure energy player he was early on in his Hershey career to an expected contributor.

Boudreau compared Gordon's success with that of Mike Knuble, who became a 20-plus goal scorer his seventh year in the NHL when he began making the opposing crease his office.

"It dawns on these players that this is pretty good, I'm getting all these goals and I don't have to shoot the puck that far. He did that last year," Boudreau said, adding that Gordon's elevated success wasn't necessarily a product of his linemates - primarily Aucoin and Giroux - during the 2009-10 season.

"When Andrew Gordon missed the first two, three games of the playoffs [with a lower-body injury], Aucoin and Giroux did nothing," Boudreau said. "It made us think Andrew Gordon is more to that line than those guys making Andrew Gordon . . . We're definitely going to want to take a long look at him."

Capitals notes: Matt Hendricks scored a hat trick in Wednesday's victory while Tomas Fleischmann (two goals, one assist) and Alexander Semin (three assists) each had three points.

Goaltender Semyon Varlamov did not allow a single goal, stopping all 20 of the shots he faced.

carrerak@washpost.com


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