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Friday, Jan. 18, 2 p.m. ET

The Washington Capitals

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Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 18, 2008; 2:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Tarik El-Bashir was online Friday, Jan. 18, at noon ET to examine the team and the rest of the National Hockey League.

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A transcript follows.

Post Coverage:

NHL News

Washington Capitals

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Tarik El-Bashir: Hello all and thanks for stopping by. Have you taken a look at the standings today? Considering the depths to which the Caps had sunk, 11th place is pretty amazing? The big question, though, is can they keep climbing? I'm sure someone will ask that very question, so let's get started.

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Washington, DC: Will Matt Bradley win the South Carolina primary?

Tarik El-Bashir: I don't know. But I bet he could become the mayor of Stittsville, Ontario, after retiring. And if keeps scoring game winners, perhaps mayor of Washington.

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Rileyville, VA: Have you ever bumped into Alexander Semin in a hallway, and if so, did he fall down?

Tarik El-Bashir: He does seem to fall down a lot. But he's also a tremendously agile skater, who can stop and turn on a dime. Maybe he falls because he's always on the ragged edge of his blades?

But if he keeps scoring at the rate he has the past few games, who cares if he falls down every once in a while? It might draw a penalty from time to time.

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Vancouver, B.C.: Do you think the Caps might attempt signing a guy like Peter Forsberg as a short term replacement for Michael Nylander?

Tarik El-Bashir: I would never say never. But from what I've read, Peter still has a long way to go before he's ready to contribute in the NHL.

I'm not sure bringing him in would be worth the $$$ or the risk of messing up chemistry. The Caps' locker room is really tight.

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Arlington, VA: Tarik,

At what point will the Caps start to get some of the national attention it deserves? That questions can also be filtered down to Mike Green and Coach Gabby?

Thanks, and keep up the great coverage and blog

Tarik El-Bashir: I think people around the country (and in DC) are slowly starting to take notice. There have been more TV and radio reporters at practice recently, and lots of Caps highlights have been shown on ESPN lately.

As for Green, the accolades will come. As for Boudreau, if the Caps rally and make the playoffs, how could he not be coach of the year? The TV folks vote on that, so if he isn't picked, don't blame me, okay?

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Memphis, TN: Any noticeable changes in Ovechkin's behavior/demeanor since the big extension?

Tarik El-Bashir: Not that I've noticed. Same old Alex. But people who are close to him say that he's a bit more relaxed now that he knows where he's going to be for a long, long time.

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Alexandria Va: When Clark returns who sits? and will Clarkie eventually be on the 1st line again?

Tarik El-Bashir: That's a tough question. Last time it was Fleischmann.

But I don't see Clark coming back for a while. He didn't even skate on his own today.

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Herndon, VA: Can you explain how a Jagr trade will benefit the Caps? Do they no longer owe a portion of his salary if he gets moved?

Tarik El-Bashir: It's my understanding that the Caps will still owe a portion of his salary this season even if he is traded.

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Arlington, VA: Tarik:

Do you think the Caps should try and find a "rental" player in place of Nylander or just use what they have as McPhee has stated?

Tarik El-Bashir: I'm kind of torn right now. The Caps are making a move in the standings, but if they make a trade and give up a young asset for a rental, and then don't make the playoffs, that would be foolish, right?

Sp I would wait before deciding whether to make a trade. But if I did opt to make a trade, I would go for a winger and not a center. Kozlov is okay in the middle. I'm starting to get worried about Clark.

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Arlington, VA: Do the Caps players read Capitals Insider? There are some strong opinions, often critical, there.

Tarik El-Bashir: Yep. Some read it. But you must remember that most pro athletes have pretty thick skin. (As do reporters.)

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Foggy Bottom: Tarik,

Realizing that chemistry is good now, if the Caps keep climbing and are buyers at trade deadline time, what one (realistic) thing do you think they could add that would make them a serious competitor/threat in the...the...can't say it, but you know what I'm talking about.

Tarik El-Bashir: Depending on the health of Clark and the availability of Fehr, I would go for a top 6 winger. Another veteran D would be nice, but almost every team in the league will be looking for one at the deadline.

I was talking to GM the other day who told me that everyone is making calls, but no one is close to making a deal. The market is dead at the moment.

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Columbia, Md.: With the falls (Semin accounting for many) and bouncing pucks last night - are there any updates to how the organization is addressing the 'bad-ice' situation that Clark discussed with you?

Tarik El-Bashir: The ice better. At least no one has complained to me about it during this homestand. And believe me, if it was bad, they'd be talking about it.

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New Bern, NC: Tarik,

two quick questions.

1. Is Poti's shoulder keeping him from shooting well, thus no goals on the stats sheet?

2. Is Green becoming the modern day Al Iafrate or is this more serious. Paul Coffey type stuff we are seeing?

Tarik El-Bashir:1. Poti's shoulder is bothering him. And that has a lot to do with his lack of goal scoring. His range of movement is definitely limited.

2. I'm not ready to compare Green to anyone yet. But he's going to be a special (and soon, very rich) player.

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Frederick, MD: How much should be read into Olie's comments to Mike Wise the other day and how much of it do you attribute to frustration from getting pulled and then not getting the start against Ottawa?

Tarik El-Bashir: I've talked to Olie at length about the column. He was clearly frustrated when he talked to Mike. He says everything that appeared in the column came out of his mouth. He just didn't mean for it to sound so critical of Boudreau.

Look, everyone gets frustrated and says things they wish they hadn't. That's probably what happened here.

Both coach and goalie, though, have gotten over it (or so it seems).

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Alexandria: With the current rates of attendance and TV ratings, can the Caps pay for Ovechkin's monster contract, overall team payroll, and other expenses and still make a profit?

Tarik El-Bashir: They lost $5-6 mil last year, even after getting a revenue sharing check of about $10 mil. (I'm sure someone in the PA might dispute those figures, but that's what I'm told).

So the short answer is no, they aren't going to turn profit. And after signing Green and Morrisonn, and the increases due to Clark and Semin, the Caps could lose a lot of $$$ next year. Unless of course, they make a playoff run and then fill the building more regularly.

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Dupont Circle: What is up with the season Pettinger is having?

Were his last two seasons a fluke or is he hurt or what?

Tarik El-Bashir: He's really struggling. I've talked to him at length about his drought, and he's got no answer for why he keeps hitting goaltender's pads, goal posts and misfiring from point blank range instead of the back of the net.

The only thing I see that's different about him this season is that he's wearing a visor. But that can't be it, can it?

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Winter Park, Florida: Tarik,

What do you think about the Caps latest surge in the standings? Is 3rd place in the Eastern Conference a pipe dream or do you think our young guys can keep this going into the 2nd half of the season?

Tarik El-Bashir: Last night's win was a prime example of what good teams do. They started poorly and fell behind, 2-0. Still, they managed to scratch out a win ... on a goal by Matt Bradley.

Whether the Caps are actually "good" remains to be seen. But it sure seems like they are trending in that direction.

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Bonzo, DC: So, are the Caps going to get into the playoffs? Ottawa has to hate the idea of facing the Caps in the first round of the playoffs...

Tarik El-Bashir: Don't get too far ahead of yourself there, buddy. There are a lot of games left to play. A lot can happen.

But, yeah, if I'm on the Senators, the last team I want to see in the first round is the Caps.

That said, if the Caps win the SE and get the third seed, the last team they want to see in the first round is Boston and goalie Tim Thomas.

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Arlington, Va.: Which teams are sinking quickly? My say is Tampa Bay and Los Angeles. Do any of those coaches get waxed say around the trading deadline?

Tarik El-Bashir: Tampa probably needs to be retooled at this point, and I think changes are coming. As for L.A., the Kings are a prime candidate to make some moves at the deadline, I hear.

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Roanoke, VA: Great game last night...the Caps reacted like they had just won the Cup! How is Green not an All Star selection? He looks faster and every game and his puck handling moves are sick especially in the defensive zone.

Tarik El-Bashir: Green got robbed. He should be an all-star for sure. Does anyone else hear a cash register every time he scores?

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Arlington, VA: So did Bradley actually hold a shootout clinic at today's practice?

Tarik El-Bashir: No, and I was sooo disappointed. Today's practice lasted about 20 minutes. It's been a tough stretch.

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All-Star Game: Are you going?

Will you be nudging any players about coming to play for the Caps?

Tarik El-Bashir: I am going. All-star weekend is fun for everyone. The players have a great time hanging with guys they don't see often. And the reporters get together and eat and drink way too much, and then complain about stuff.

Seriously, though, it's always a good time.

If you remember, last year in Dallas I blogged about going through a 'What-a-burger' restaurant drive thru at 4 a.m. There's always a couple of nights like that during all-star weekend.

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Silver Spring: Now that Nylander is gone for the year, what do you think about Sundin as a rental?

Tarik El-Bashir: No. Sundin is a great player and a great leader, but the Caps would have to send Toronto some real assets to get him. It's just not worth it, considering Washington's precarious -- yet improving -- position in the standings.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you think the Caps will pursue a starting goaltender in the offseason? Between Kolzig's performance so far this season (excluding last night) and his quotes in Wise's article, is there any chance the Caps go after a new netminder?

Tarik El-Bashir: That all depends on what happens down the stretch. If Kolzig can be consistent, and is okay with having Johnson play more, it's possible he'll be back. If not, they could part ways.

I think it's pretty telling that the Caps haven't offered him an extension yet. Last time, he was offered on Jan. 2, the day after teams can re-sign their vets.

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Washington, DC: A broad question for you -

Have you found being the Caps' beat reporter to be a great experience? For those of us who love the game (and realized at some point in the past that our skating skillz capped out at peewee level), you've got a dream job. I wonder what it's like, on a day-to-day basis. The guys on a team like the Caps seem a lot more entertaining to cover than some of the teams that are more stiff and traditional in their approach to life, playing and media.

Tarik El-Bashir: It is a dream job -- on most days. But there's a common misconception that it's always a blast. It's not. For example: you rarely get days off during the season, commercial travel isn't fun, and you're away from your family a lot.

That said, I wouldn't want to do anything else. Hockey players are the best athletes to deal with and I love writing. So I'm not complaining.

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Leesburg: Hi Tarik,

I asked in the last chat about Joe B welcoming viewers from Northern California during the Caps telecasts...were you able to find out about that?

Tarik El-Bashir: Doh! I forgot. I sat next to him on a plane recently, too. My bad. I will ask on Saturday. Send me an email and I'll reply.

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Largo, MD: The players must be feeling good about how things have turned around. Any fear of overconfidence on the players and/or coaches?

Tarik El-Bashir: They are definitely confident as a group, as Kolzig said today. But he also said the group isn't going to get cocky. He felt like that was part of the problem after they started off the season 3-0. They got complacent.

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Annandale, VA: Hey Tarik,

Love the columns. If the Caps are buyers who do you see as the #1 asset on this team GMGM would most likely trade? I cannot see most people on this roster being desirable for the kind of player(center/D) that the Caps need to keep this surge going?

Tarik El-Bashir: If they are buyers, I could see them moving a prospect or pick, but I don't see them parting with anyone on the current roster. All the players they would be willing to deal aren't going to be hot commodities at the deadline, if you know what I'm saying.

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DC: Went to my first Caps game, and the shootout stuff is riveting. Sweaty palms, not being able to sit down. Great stuff, and this team is fun to watch.

Tarik El-Bashir: Yeah, great for fans. But terrible for reporters who have only minutes to write a story. My head would explode if I had to do that every night (like the Edmonton reporters).

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Winter Park, Florida: What are the Capitals plans for re-signing Alexander Semin and Mike Green? I know Green is going to be due a nice raise, and with Ovechkin's new deal, is there enough to keep are young talent in Washington?

Tarik El-Bashir: Semin has already been resigned for two-years, $9.2 mil. Green is going to earn about the same in yearly compensation.

Whether the Caps keep all of their young talent depends on the team winning, gaining more fans and filling the building. It will also help if Leonsis assumes control of the Wizards, the arena and the tickemaster franchise.

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Tarik El-Bashir: Thanks for joining me this afternoon. I wish I could stay longer, but I've got a newspaper story to write. See you again next week.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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