Ovie returns for Bell matinee

ovie

The Capitals will get Alex Ovechkin back from his three game suspension when they visit the Canadiens on Saturday afternoon. The Washington captain should be fired up — and the Bell Centre fans might be as well — as he pulls on a game sweater for the first time since Brendan Shanahan gave him a little vacation (that included his noisy refusal to play in the All-Star Game and his quiet trip to Miami Beach).

“I miss hockey a lot,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s nine days, almost 10 days without hockey. I’m pretty depressed, but practicing is good.”

Washington went 1-1-1 in Ovie’s absence, and coach Dale Hunter credited Mathieu Perreault (who had a hat trick against the Bruins), Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson with stepping up their play.

Still, losing to the Panthers 4-2 in Sunrise, FL, on Wednesday dumped the Caps from the third seed (by virtue of holding the top spot in the mighty Southeast Division) down to ninth in the Eastern Conference. They’re only a point behind Florida.

The Caps visited Montreal just two weeks ago, shutting out the Habs 3-0. It was a rare road victory for them. They have just six victories in their last 23 away games.

The highlight for the home team that night was Rene Bourque squaring off with Matt Hendricks as Hendricks sought to avenge Bourque’s concussion-causing elbow to Caps’ centre Nicklas Backstrom’s head while Bourque was playing for the Flames (and Backstrom is still not skating; there is no timetable for his return). After that, not much good happened for the home team other than holding Washington to just 16 shots while taking 31 of their own, all of which were stopped by Michal Neuvirth.

It’s hard to imagine Hunter playing Neuvirth on Saturday afternoon, however; not after he gave up this goal to Mikael Samuelsson for the game’s first tally on Wednesday:

Neuvirth explained “I thought he was going to rim it. I was cheating a little bit and he caught me. . . . I left the post and I couldn’t get back in time.” So he could be watching this tilt from the folding chair in the visitors’ runway. That would mean Tomas Vokoun will be in goal, and he’s pretty much been anointed the Caps’ number 1 goalie since Hunter arrived, starting 14 of the past 17 games.

On defence, Mike Green remains sidelined as he recovers from sports hernia surgery, although he is skating again and could be back when these team’s next meet later this month.

So Dennis Wideman, the Caps lone All-Star Game representative, will again run things on the blue line. He was partnered with Jeff Schultz for the Panthers game, the first time in 13 games Schultz dressed. Schultz can be an effective physical, crease-clearing defenseman but has played in just seven of the Capitals’ 28 games since Hunter was hired on Nov. 28.

John Carlson and Karl Alzner remain the top shutdown pair and expect to see them against the Habs Pacioretty-Desharnais-Cole trio. Roman Hamrlik and a very promising rookie Dmitry Orlov round out the defence corps. Hamrlik leads them with 100 blocked shots, Carlson and Alzner are not far behind him and Wideman’s not far behind them.

Getting Ovechkin back — especially if he plays remotely like the Ovie of old — allows Hunter to put two decent offensive lines out. Ovie will likely skate with Johansson and Semin while a fairly new threesome of Brooks Laich between Hendricks and Troy Brouwer has made some noise in the last couple of games, strong on the forecheck with some offensive pop. Each has scored a goal since the line was formed. Following the extended slump he was in the last time these teams played, Laich has three points in his last four games.

The Caps recalled Keith Aucoin from AHL Hershey this week and waived goon Joel Rechlicz, who played all of 4:16 in the Florida two road games, with the intention of returning him to Hershey if he goes unclaimed by noon Saturday. Some in DC thought the Caps had summoned Reichlicz for another go at Bourque. Aucoin is leading the AHL is scoring with 70 points, a league-best 59 of them assists. He last played an NHL game Dec. 28, 2010 against Montreal.

When these teams last met, as we noted in our preview, the Caps had gone 12-9-1 under Hunter, exactly what they were under Bruce Boudreau. Since then, they are 1-2-2.

Here’s how the Caps lines looked in practice late this week:

Alex Ovechkin, Marcus Johansson. Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks, Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera, Mathieu Perreault, Mike Knuble
Keith Aucoin, Jeff Halpern, Joel Ward

John Carlson, Karl Alzner
Dmitry Orlov, Roman Hamrlik
Dennis Wideman, Jeff Schultz

Tomas Vokoun
Michal Neuvirth

76 Comments

  1. Ian Cobb says:

    Hamrlik and Halpern are going to the play offs.!
    Looks good on them.

    If we do not make the play offs this year, Bob Gainey”s house cleaning, will be no match for the total Molly Maid cleaning this spring!!

  2. I hope we get crushed tomorrow.
    And the day after.
    Tank! Tank! Tank! Tank!
    House Cleaning!

  3. Marc10 says:

    I’ll take a shot…

    1. Will Martin coach in the NHL again?
    Doubt it. But Cunney sure is making him look good.

    2. Will Gauthier ever be an NHL GM again? (Let’s just assume he really is one now… aw…you saw that coming, didn’t you?)
    No. Not a chance unless the Nordiques are reborn and he has friends in high places.

    3. Will Cunneyworth be a head coach in the NHL again or will people hold this debacle against him? (Will he even WANT to be?)
    No, don’t think so. Yes you’re accountable for your actions and yes he wants to be.

    4. Does Molson really have a clue about how to clean up this mess? If yes, what in Bob’s name makes you think he does?
    No. But he’s a well spoken, well educated guy and a hockey fan. So he’s not dumb and I have to believe like any top corporate guy, he’s got a talent search on now. No point in hiring the wrong guy.

    5. Is firing your experienced coaching staff one-by-one and replacing them with neophyte NHL coaches:
    a. a novel but short-sighted way to spark your team
    b. a sneaky way to try to keep your job
    c. a subtle way to blame others for your inadequacies
    d. a good way to screw the organization that’s about to can your ass
    e. …all of the above

    b and c

  4. Lizardking89 says:

    Wow the Price bashers are out in force, Funny how they crawl out of the woodwork whenever Halak plays a good game. Didn’t see much of them last season when Price was one of the best goalies in the league stat wise. The team in front of him is crap people give the kid a break for f-sake

    • Chris says:

      Price is great, Halak is great. I wish people would understand that.

      Last season, Halak was the one playing behind a crap team (notice that you didn’t give Halak credit for that) but he still did relatively well.

      This year, Price is the one playing behind a crap team and he’s still doing relatively well.

      If anything, their performances have shown that the importance of goaltending in the modern NHL is perhaps over-stated. Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, there were few truly elite goaltenders, and the gap between the Roys, Brodeurs and Haseks versus the average or below average starting goalies was significant.

      Today, goalies are largely interchangable…it is the team in front that generally decides a goaltender’s stats. Martin Brodeur, while still posting remarkable statistics, went down to injury a few years ago and his journeyman back-up, Scott Clemmensen, went on to post almost the exact same statistics in the a similar number of games.

      If you look through many of the goalies in the league, you see that the starter and the back-up basically have similar numbers.

  5. Habs.Prophet says:

    I’m glad Smart Dog is still here but where the hell is Le Bugs???
    Bugs was the most prolific poster on this site back in the old days! When Jose Theodore was God’s gift to Montreal.

    Now make for us a king to judge us like all the nations

    • geo_habsgo says:

      I agree!! I miss Bugs around these parts I enjoyed his cerebral style of trolling. He’d definitely be a hit around here these days when we don’t have too much to laugh about as Habs fans. I’m also surprised that he hasn’t been around here to gloat about the great year his boy Desharnais is having.

    • Chris says:

      Think I saw Bugs the other day posting in the chat of exnordic on Justin.tv. At least, it was somebody going by Bugsyboy who wrote an awful lot like our favourite leporine contributor.

  6. Not Looking Good says:

    I’ll put it to you this way. we have 142 goals against in 51 games
    st. Louis has 102 in 50 so it has to be either weak defence or weak goaltending or both. you be the judge. I know my answer. too many soft goals allowed. blame whom ever.

    • Seps says:

      Hahaha, only Habs fans could blame their goalie for being last in the east, only because it’d actually take smarts or hockey sense to realize that it’s the team in front of him. You made yourself look dumb with that post.

      #failfornail

      • The Cat says:

        Maybe you dont know hockey…The habs D block shots like nobodys business. On the PK, Gill becomes goaltender 1B, and its not like the habs give up a ton of 2 on 1s, 3 on 2s either, I mean its not like the opposition is scoring highlight reel goals on him nonstop. Just saying ‘the excellence of Price’ is not founded, theres no difference when Budaj is in nets.

        [Disclaimer]: I’m a hockey fan. I care about the habs, but probably not as much as you.

  7. deuce6 says:

    To all the dummies posting about us trading the wrong goalie…Maybe we should trade Price for Elliot because you know, he has the same or better stats than Jaro…

    Gimmie a break..Halak had a run of games where he seen less than 20 shots per game…Put him in our net and see if he can stop Parise from 3 feet in front of the net wide freaking open…The STL Blues are a real contender in front of Halak..We are a bottom feeder..

    ——————

    Yes, I’m a Hab fan..Wanna fight about it?

  8. Bad Digestion says:

    Congratz to Halak for another shutout ! And to Gomez for his 1 year anniversary, keep it up you still got another couple of years to redeem yourself, so take all the time you need.

  9. --Habs-- says:

    Gomez is not the worst Hab ever as a player but definitely the worst Hab player for the price. There is a difference I think.

  10. H.Upmann says:

    Just watching TSNhighlights, 4 shutouts in last 7 starts! Good on Jaro.

  11. ProHabs says:

    It is National Scott Gomez Day.

  12. CHicoHab says:

    “take your time and hurry up”

  13. Bill H says:

    Getzlaf for Price E4

  14. habs17 says:

    2013 20 years after last cup we winning it all next year scott gomez conn smythe
    I support Scott Gomez

  15. aj says:

    Ovie: “I miss hockey a lot” – Whatever dude! At least you’re still getting paid $9.5+ million this yr and for the next 9yrs to come.

    I’m sure he’s not gonna miss hockey at all. Unless, he gets injured for life….

  16. matt jordan says:

    I feel bad for Gomez. Not scoring a goal in a year is a truly unique accomplishment. Like last year was bad, and he admitted so and apologized to his teammates. But now his drought has reached hilarious levels. Gagner had more points last night than Gomez has all season.

    He has to be embarassed.

  17. HardHabits says:

    Just watched Halak earn his 5th shut-out of the season. He made some spectacular saves tonight.

    The Blues have won 30 of 50 games so far, 10 of them being shut-outs (yes Elliott has 5 shut-outs too). They’re currently 3rd over-all. They play Nashville tomorrow. Should be a good hockey game. Low scoring with lots of action and puck battles.

    Jaro and D’Ags versus SergeiK.

    Don’t let the Aliens get you.

    • aj says:

      you’re making it obvious for all Price fans that Halak was the wrong guy to be traded (Although I agree he shouldn’t have been traded).

    • DorvalTony says:

      Halak is 14-0-1 in his last 15 games, has 5 shutouts now with 1.96 GAA and 4 shutouts in his last 7 games. Top five in the league. All hail King Halak!

      http://www.nhl.com/ice/playerstats.htm?fetchKey=20122ALLGAGAll&sort=goalsAgainstAverage&viewName=goalsAgainstAverage

      • habsfan0 says:

        Carey Price: “Just chill out.”

      • WindsorHab-10 says:

        Look at the team, the system & the coaching staff Halak plays for. Like comparing apples & oranges.
        We traded the right guy. Case closed.

      • Mark C says:

        Still second best goalie on his team, by a sizable margin.

        • Chris says:

          Why has Hitchcock been giving him more starts then in every month but December? I don’t understand this continued knock on Halak…Ken Hitchcock is perhaps the best coach in the NHL (although he wears out his welcome fast). I think he can figure out his goaltenders, and he seems to have as much or more faith in Halak than he does in Elliott.

          Halak had a terrible October. But since then, his season has been as good or better than Elliott’s. They are both great, as is Price. You could swap any of them for each other and probably not notice a significant drop-off in performance. That is the nature of today’s NHL.

          I’m glad Price is in Montreal as he seems to have the maturity and attitude to survive the fishbowl. I liked Halak, but we’ll never know how he would have done as the starter in Montreal as we never saw how he’s react to the pressure when things went south in a hurry.

    • Bill says:

      Pretty sure I could get a shut-out playing for a first-year Hitchcock team. But I always agreed Halak is a good goalie, so if that’s what you mean then I guess I’m with you.

      You didn’t mean something else, did you?

      Full Breezer 4 Life

    • HabinBurlington says:

      Nice to know you have always been a life long Halak fan. Can you tell me now your definitive view on DD would like to have it on the record for a couple years from now.

    • jedimyrmidon says:

      Good on Halak. He’s playing well on a team that is playing very well under their new coach, and that has been maybe 4-5 years in the making (probably going through some pretty bad years along the way). He’s also got support in a good backup who is also posting extraordinary numbers, and both work well sharing the load.

      Would have been nice to have kept him, but with the Habs being as they are, any goalie controversy is likely to result in throwing one guy under the bus while lauding the other. Not the right atmosphere for a good goalie tandem.

  18. neumann103 says:

    Good for Aucoin. I always like to see when a guy who has been light int up in the AHL gets a shot at the big team.

    “Et le but!”

  19. DorvalTony says:

    That’s the 4th shutout in 7 games for Jaroslav Halak tonight, how’s Crystobal Price doing?

    http://ourhistory.canadiens.com/player/Jaroslav-Halak

  20. mfDx says:

    Here’s an idea: hey! Scott Gomez! Starting feb 5 th, donate all of your earnings to charity until you score a goal.
    (It’s a great PR move)

    Sent from my CHphone

  21. Le Jadester says:

    SD 5 QUESTIONS ABOUT HABS MANAGEMENT:
    ———–
    1. Will Martin coach in the NHL again?
    2. Will Gauthier ever be an NHL GM again? (Let’s just assume he really is one now… aw…you saw that coming, didn’t you?)
    3. Will Cunneyworth be a head coach in the NHL again or will people hold this debacle against him? (Will he even WANT to be?)
    4. Does Molson really have a clue about how to clean up this mess? If yes, what in Bob’s name makes you think he does?
    5. Is firing your experienced coaching staff one-by-one and replacing them with neophyte NHL coaches:
    a. a novel but short-sighted way to spark your team
    b. a sneaky way to try to keep your job
    c. a subtle way to blame others for your inadequacies
    d. a good way to screw the organization that’s about to can your ass
    e. …all of the above

    Answers

    1) Hopefully yes ! With the Boston Bruins after Clod gets fired and then he can “eff” up that organization too and do something productive for a change.

    2) Probably not. So, no.

    3) I can see some organization giving Randy a 2nd chance because of the circumstances he had to face with this being his 1st job ? But so far I am not liking what he’s doing here at all. He’s had the perfect opportunity under these circumstances to make some noise and so far nothing but elevator music. IMO his biggest mistake was throwing Gomer on the PP right away when he came back from an injury. Like what the “eff” are you thinking Randy ? Dumb dumb dumb. All he would have to do is the opposite of what the count did, and he’d be alright.

    4) Don’t think so. This requires hockey business ingenuity and managerial smarts. I think he probably just knows how to make $ and probably has others doing that for him too. Especially under the protection of government policies that ensure him and Labatts have a duopoly over the Canadian Beer market without ever having to worry about competition from below. The only way he’ll win me over is when he opens up his cheque book and says “I will spend what ever it takes to win a cup by:

    a) Buying out Gomer’s contract
    b) giving Babcock a blank cheque and asking him to fill it in with whatever numbers he see’s reasonable to coach the Habs for the next 5 years.
    c) pretty much going all out Yankees style and spending what ever you have to, that doesn’t affect the cap to win the Cup, in all areas that can make an impact. Its the sum of all the little details that can make it happen?

    5) (e – all of the above) I just wish Kirk Muller was our coach along with Larry Robinson ? (obviously if we couldn’t get Mikey Bee).

    Thanks SD for lettin’ me have some fun in some very difficult times we’re facing with our beloved team. To be honest with everyone, I don’t think the Habs are gonna win a cup anytime soon. Like, probably not for another 10 years the way things are now and the way things are going ? But who knows ? Its kinda scary to think about when the next one could realistically come ?

    Habs, OLE !

    • HardHabits says:

      Good comment Jade.

    • aj says:

      1) No. Maybe…
      2) NO!
      3) Yes, he’ll coach again.
      4) No! Molson needs help.
      5) e

    • Bill H says:

      4. Does Molson really have a clue about how to clean up this mess?

      A: The only thing we can say for sure is that if he doesn’t know how to clean this mess up, then obviously he isn’t a poster on Habs Inside/Out, because everyone here knows what to do.

    • citizenSanto says:

      My Replies to SD’s Questions about Habs’ Management.

      1. Will Martin coach in the NHL again?
      Maybe not. You whine some, you lose some

      2. Will Gauthier ever be an NHL GM again?
      well, if he is gone and gets hired, most here will see that as a “whine whine” situation.

      3. Will Cunneyworth be a head coach in the NHL again?
      Maybe. He has proved that it’s not whether you whine or lose, but how you play the game.

      4. Does Molson really have a clue about how to clean up this mess?
      Well, he sure learned that while you can’t whine a cup in October, you certainly can lose it.

      5. Is firing your experienced coaching staff…
      e. all of the above. However, harsh as it may sound, for some people, whining isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

      ;-)

      I just might have to quit on this team. We all know,
      “quitters never whine, and whiners never quit”

      —————————————
      Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. — Augustine of Hippo

  22. The Dude says:

    Gauthier got to go now and then trades!

  23. slychard says:

    What about White and his hernia?

  24. sreuel says:

    When will the trades be starting for our Habs. I think nothing big as if PG gets the axe after the season the new GM will pick a part this team and new coach

  25. JohnBellyful says:

    I have nothing to say but I wanted to be the first to say it.
    Edit: Not say it.


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