Capitals Coach Boudreau wary of Devils

By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 22, 2010; 5:00 AM

Coach Bruce Boudreau knows the danger of writing a team off just a quarter of the way through the season, after all that's happened to the Washington Capitals in the 2007-08 season when he was brought in as interim head coach.

So despite the injuries and salary cap problems that have plagued the New Jersey Devils, who have just five wins and the second worst record in the Eastern Conference through 20 games this year, Boudreau remains wary of a team that still has the pieces required to be a playoff contender.

"I think at the beginning of the year they were Stanley Cup favorites and, quite frankly, if you look at their lineup, and you think they look like a last-place club you're in real trouble. If they ever just get on a roll they're going to lop off eight or 10 straight [wins] and everything could be different."

After suffering two consecutive losses for just the second time this season over the weekend, Washington visits a Devils squad 7 p.m. Monday at Prudential Center with several injuries and without some of their hallmark players.

This past week, New Jersey announced that future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur would miss at least four to five days and possibly two weeks with a bruised right elbow. Zach Parise, the Devils' leading scorer from 2009-10, was placed on injured reserve at the end of October after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will miss three months. Captain Jamie Langenbrunner missed New Jersey's past four games after crashing head-first into the boards on Nov. 10 and defenseman Bryce Salvador has been out indefinitely since the start of the season with a concussion.

Heading into the matchup with the Capitals, New Jersey has lost three straight - its most recent defeat a 3-2 loss to St. Louis on Saturday - and has yet to string together consecutive wins this season. The Devils are also looking for any kind of offensive spark. New Jersey has been shut out three times in eight November games and own a league-worst 1.80 goals per game average. No player has hit double-digits in goals as Jason Arnott leads the team with six.

Varlamov update

On Saturday, goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 19 saves in his second start with the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears in a 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh Penguins affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Boudreau said there continues to be no set timeline for Varlamov's conditioning assignment in Hershey and that there have been no setbacks in the 22-year-old's recovery from the latest flare-up of a groin injury that has hampered him all season. The Capitals are looking to give Varlamov ample time to get back into a game rhythm as he appeared in only two NHL games.

"He's practicing fine and he's game rusty," Boudreau said. "He's a really good goaltender and it takes a little time to get the rust off your game - positioning, lining up, being in a game for 60 minutes and having your head there - you can't get that from taking shots. . . . When he's ready [to return], he's ready. We'll all know. There's not a date you can put on it right now."

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