Friday, Feb. 15, 2 p.m. ET

The Washington Capitals

Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 15, 2008; 2:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Tarik El-Bashir was online Friday, Feb. 15, at 1 p.m. ET to examine the team and the rest of the National Hockey League.

A transcript follows.

Post Coverage:

NHL News

Washington Capitals

____________________ Tarik will be taking questions around 2:20 p.m. ET.


Tarik El-Bashir: Sorry for being late, folks. But as many of you road warriors know, finding reliable wireless away from home isn't always easy. Anyway, I'm here. So let's get started, shall we?


Washington D.C.: Will Clark or Pothier be ready for the playoffs? Does Clark automatically go to the 1st line?

Tarik El-Bashir: Great question. I spoke to Chris Clark this morning. He's on the trip and skating lightly, but he has no idea when he's going to be back. When I asked him if it would be this season, he said, "I hope so."

As for Pothier, I haven't even seen him in a month. So that's not a good sign.


Springfield, Va.: Tarik, thanks for your online Caps updates, they are very much appreciated. My question is, is it time for a "reality check" and say the Caps thin-ness in so many positions make it a matter of time before another injury (or flu outbreak) brings the Caps back to their usual spot at the back of the line? Or may I get starry-eyed and say once Clark and Pothier and Poti come back we'll make a good honest charge at a Cup run. What say ye?

Tarik El-Bashir: The Caps have two glaring holes in their lineup in my opinion.

Without Michael Nylander, they simply must go out and get a second line center if they are going to make any sort of a postseason run. They've been rotating centers there ever since Nylander went out ... and it hasn't worked.

The Caps also would be well-served to get a grizzled veteran on the blue line. They do not have a player back there that strikes fear into the hearts of opposing forwards. That's a problem.


Marietta, Ga.: Hi Tarik,

I'm concerned, as other fans are, about the team's injury situation. How close are Clark and Poti to returning? If the response from GMGM is still "day-to-day," then is anyone in the organization hinting that the team might look beyond Hershey to address its shortcomings?


Tarik El-Bashir: George McPhee has said over and again that he doesn't plan to give up any assets in order to fill the voids on the roster. I agree with him. To a certain extent.

The Caps have a shot to win the division this season. Their chances would be greatly enhanced by getting a top-six forward and veteran defensemen to flesh out the lineup. It would also make them a dangerous team in the playoffs.

But the question is this: how much is too much to give up in order to address those needs?


Wheaton, Md.: Of the other four Southeast clubs, who do you see getting the most points down the stretch and who do you see fading?

Tarik El-Bashir: I honestly think the Caps have the best shot right now -- as long as they continue to get solid goaltending.

Carolina just lost Rod Brind'Amour and I think that will really hurt them in the long run. Florida, with or without Richard Zednik, hasn't impressed me. Neither has Atlanta or Tampa.

It really is a battle between five average/flawed teams.


D.C.: Hiya Tarik

If you are GMGM and want to shore up the Caps chances for a playoff spot by getting a power forward or a veteran defenseman, for whom do you trade and what kind of draft choice(s) do you give up for them?

Tarik El-Bashir: I always hesitate to throw out names -- unless I know for sure that discussions are taking place. Because when you throw out trade scenarios, it gets picked up by someone and then it becomes a rumor. And I'm not in the rumor business.


Herndon, Va.: Tarik - True or false: Eric Fehr will contribute more to a Hershey Calder Cup run than a Washington Capitals Stanley Cup run this year?

Tarik El-Bashir: That's a tough one. Eric is certainly rounding into game shape and has had his moments up here in recent games. I think it's really up to him. This is his shot. It won't be his last, but if he starts to find the back of the net, and helps the Caps get to the playoffs, he may have seen the last of the AHL. The operative word being "may".


Billy, Washington D.C.: Will the 4th Line of Laich/Gordon/Fehr be more of a scoring threat without Brash? Do you think this is why he is being scratched?

Tarik El-Bashir: Unless Brashear is secretly injured -- and I don't believe that to be the case -- Coach Boudreau is scratching him in an effort to find some more speed and scoring. The Caps have scored four goals in regulation the past three games. That's not going to get it done, regardless of how good the goaltending is/has been.


Fairfax: Ladislav Nagy? He showed promise a couple seasons ago, maybe he could be reviatalized with the Caps...

Tarik El-Bashir: No thanks. With no disrespect to Nagy, he's the last guy the Caps need.


Arlington, Va.: Was Laing a healthy scratch these past few games, or has the ungodly amount of pucks he's blocked taken a toll that required some time off?

Tarik El-Bashir: Nope. Coach Boudreau was looking for some more scoring -- and even though Pettinger has been in a season-long funk, he has the ability to score.

Laing has his strengths, but creating offense is not one of them.


Shaw, DC: Are there plans for the team to head over to South Beach, if they can get a big win tonight?

Tarik El-Bashir: No South Beach for the Caps. They are leaving right after tonight's game for Tampa.

South Beach, however, could be in the plans for the beat writers. ;-)


Herndon, Va.: Tarik -- Do you think a package include Jurcina and Andrew Gordon for Barrett Jackman would gain any traction?

Tarik El-Bashir: I know I said I wouldn't start any rumors. But Barrett Jackman is a name I hear often when talking to folks around the league about possible deadline day deals.


San Antonio: The Capitals just signed Tomas Fleischmann to a 2-year extension. Why do the Capitals continue to make multi-year commitments to players who have had a single good season -- or even a single good month?

Tarik El-Bashir: That's a fair question. I've wondered the same thing. But Coach Boudreau has told me often this season that he feels Fleischmann has the stuff to make it in the NHL. He just needs a little more time. Remember the jump Flash made from his first AHL season to his second? That's what Boudreau is hoping for here.

If that happens, Fleischmann will be a bargain. If it doesn't work out, the Caps didn't waste that much money.

That's my take on it anyway.


Arlington, Va.: Tarik,

The Caps have had trouble scoring goals over the past several games. Do you think they need to make a trade for another scorer before the deadline in order to reach the playoffs?

Tarik El-Bashir: I understand George McPhee's reluctance to trade away any assets to get a rental. But something needs to be done. They are at least one top-6 forward short.

Ideally, the Caps would go out and get a center. Because when the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov line is on (and that's most of the time) it's tough to stop and fun to watch.


Boston, MA: Do you think losing Brind'Amour for the remainder of the season will be enough to slow down Carolina, which has played well of late? And speaking of injuries, how long can the Caps D hold out if Poti joins Pothier on the shelf for any appreciable amount of time?

Thanks for keeping us up to date with the Caps!

Tarik El-Bashir: Yes, I think losing Brind'Amour is going really going to hurt the 'Canes in the long run. He's a leader on and off the ice, still is an elite scorer, and is money in the faceoff circle. They are going to have a tough time replacing that.

As for the Caps' injury situation, I wouldn't hold my breath on Clark and Pothier. They are out indefinitely (read: much longer).


Baltimore: Tarik, what is the deal with Comcast's HD quality? It appears to be nowhere near as crisp as the NBC HD broadcasts for hockey and such? Does CSN just have inferior camera equipment and if yes do you know if they have any plans to upgrade?

Tarik El-Bashir: I don't know. That's the first I've heard of it. Remember, I'm at the games so I'm not watching. I know people that I can ask, though.

Ask me again next week. Hopefully, I'll have answer for you.


DC: McPhee has a tendency of picking up as many draft picks as possible. That being said, does he have multiple first or second round picks this year?

Tarik El-Bashir: The Caps have a first round pick, three second round picks, a third and a four (although one *might* have to go to Boston as part of the Jurcina trade), a fifth, a sixth and a seventh.


Reisterstown, Md: Do you think Carl Alzner could make the Caps next year?

Tarik El-Bashir: From everything I've heard, Karl Alzner will have a very good shot at making the team next year.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Tarik, thanks for keeping us updated! I'm curious the chances of us seeing Sami Lepisto in game and how soon?

Tarik El-Bashir: I don't know exactly when Lepisto is going to see time up here, but it's clear that he's the next Hershey defenseman to get the call. Depending on how much time Poti misses and Pothier's situation, I think there's a good chance we'll see Sami soon.


Marietta, Ga.: Odd question, but here goes. Earlier this season, the team complained about ice conditions at the Verizon Center. Following a recent loss, Kolzig brought this up this issue again. What has the NHL done to assist the Caps improve their home ice? A good sheet would definitely improve our young team's chances!

Tarik El-Bashir: The ice has been an ongoing problem, and the NHL has worked with the Caps in an effort to improve it.

The ice quality had improved after the first round of complaints early this season. But I've heard more complaining about it lately.

I'm planning to write a story about the ice issue soon. Even though both teams have to play on the same surface, bad ice hurts skilled, fast players like Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom and Green.


Carlisle, Pa.: Tarik...Were you able to find out why CSN broadcasts some of the games in Northern California?

Tarik El-Bashir: Yes. Joe B. welcomes viewers from Northern California because Caps games are sometimes broadcast in the San Francisco market. Why? I don't know. It's a Comcast thing.


Centreville, VA: It certanly seems from the outside that Olie and Boudreau aren't exactly on the same page. Do you think that Kolzig's days as the Caps netmnder are numbered?

Tarik El-Bashir: I think their relationship got off to a bumpy start. Boudreau played Olie a lot, worked the goalies hard in practice and pulled Kolzig in a game where he didn't think he derserve to be pulled.

But lately, it seems they are getting along. In fact, it appears that Boudreau's plan of splitting the starts 60-40 between Kolzig and Johnson is helping both goalies perform at their best.

That said, Kolzig's future in Washington is uncertain. He has not received a contract offer and doesn't expect one anytime soon. Both sides are going to have some tough decisions to make in the coming months.


Columbia, Md.: I know you hate specific names, but for the blueliner, any word on either Adam Foote in Columbus or Bryan McCabe in Toronto? Both could use a change of scenery and have a rap of being "rugged customers."

Tarik El-Bashir: Foote might work but the Jackets would expect a lot in return. Meantime, McCabe has a BIG contract with several years remaining. I don't see that happening.


Washington DC.: What do you think about a Flash-Gordon-Semin line?

Tarik El-Bashir: Gordon does a lot for the Caps. But he is not a second line center.


Silver Spring: Easy one for you: How does OV do it?

Tarik El-Bashir: His energy level and mental toughness is unmatched. I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like it.

It's one thing to be hyperactive. It's quite another to be able to focus that ridiculously high energy level and be productive. Ovechkin manages to do it.


Alexandria, VA: I really like the way Kolzig has been playing lately. Do you see his current level of tending continuing through the remainder of the season (and hopefully into the playoffs)?

Tarik El-Bashir: Now that Kolzig is getting some time between starts, I do see him rebounding from that rough stretch last month and being decent down the stretch. The more people I talk to about him, the more I hear that he was just plain worn down from getting too much work in November and December. Remember, he's 37.


Gaithersburg, Md.: From what you've seen in the morning skates and practices, has Boudreau been able to communicate effectively with Alex Semin? Or does he have to speak through Ovechkin or Kozlov? Keep up the great work Tarik!

Tarik El-Bashir: Semin's English continues to improve -- if more slowly than the team would like. I don't see Boudreau speaking directly with him. But I'm not in the dressing room or Boudreau's office for meetings, either.

Recently, Boudreau said that he still relies on Ovechkin and Kozlov to make sure the message gets across to Semin.


Marietta, Ga.: Pettiger seemed to have more jump last year. He banged the corners and netted a surprising number of goals.

What you think is holding him up this year? Is he playing hurt- or just fading from the NHL game?

Tarik El-Bashir: No one has been able to put a finger on what's wrong with Pettinger. But he's got another shot to snap out of his funk tonight. He's on the second line with Kozlov and Semin.


Sprongfeld, VA: Tarik, Earlier in the season Fleischmann struggled when he was on the right side of the center. His play in the last month has been strong. What is the thinking putting him now back on the right where he struggled? Is it because semin is more productive on the left, or because with his recent strong play, and a chance to line up with Ovey and Backstrom, they feel he will break out, so to speak?

Tarik El-Bashir: Everyone is waiting for Fleischmann to break out. This is his best chance to date. Let's see if he can keep up with Ovechkin and Backstrom.


Tarik El-Bashir: Again, sorry for being a little late today. I wasn't anticipating connectivity problems. Thanks for sticking around, and I'll see you here next week.


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