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HPT Training Camp Preview: Washington Capitals Print
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Written by Erika Schnure   
Wednesday, 14 September 2011 21:20

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green
The Capitals decided that veteran grit and goaltending would bring the elusive playoff success they have been seeking. As a result, training camp opens with a brand-new blend of talent and toughness in Washington.

2010-11 record: 48-23-11; first in Eastern Conference; lost to Tampa Bay, 4-0, in Eastern Conference semifinal
• Head coach:
Bruce Boudreau. Record with team: 189-79-39 (fourth season). Career record: 189-79-39 (fourth season)
• Temperature of his seat:
Cool.
• Assistant coaches:
Dean Evason, Bob Woods, Blaine Forsythe

OVERVIEWTomas Vokoun

After losing to Tampa Bay in the second round of the playoffs, it became clear that the Capitals needed to make roster changes in order to win a Stanley Cup. The early exit prompted a flurry of trades and signings, starting with a draft-time trade to bring Troy Brouwer, who won the Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010, to the nation's capital. Free agents Joel Ward, Roman Hamrlik, Jeff Halpern, and veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun were added to the roster later in the summer. Brouwer and Ward bring grit to the second- and third-line wings. Ward had a breakout performance in Nashville's first playoff semifinal appearance. Halpern, a Maryland native, returns to his roots and replaces Boyd Gordon as the main face-off man on the fourth line. Coming with Halpern from the Montreal Canadiens is Roman Hamrlik, who looks to play the stay-at-home defenseman to Mike Green's offensive tendencies. Michal Neuvirth, coming off a good rookie season, has the opportunity to learn from a goaltender he looked up to as a kid: Vokoun, a fellow Czech who came to the Caps to win a Cup.

KEY ADDITIONS

DID YOU KNOW?
Jeff Halpern was a Washington Capital from 1999 to 2006, serving as captain for the 2005-2006 season. In Alex Ovechkin's first NHL season, Halpern was his roommate on the road.

RW Troy Brouwer (17 goals, 19 assists, 36 points), RW Joel Ward (10-19-29), C Jeff Halpern (11-15-26), D Roman Hamrlik (5-29-34), G Tomas Vokoun (22-28-5, 2.55 GAA, .922 save pct.)

KEY DEPARTURES

RW Eric Fehr (10 goals, 10 assists, 20 points), C Jason Arnott (17-14-31), C Boyd Gordon (3-6-9), LW Marco Sturm (5-11-16), D Scott Hannan (1-4-5), G Semyon Varlamov (11-9-5, 2.23 GAA, .924 save pct.)

KEY POSITION BATTLE

Second-line center is a perennial concern for the Capitals. Last season Jason Arnott was brought in at the trade deadline to serve as the steady center for Alexander Semin. This season Brooks Laich, a natural center who has played most recently on the wing, is expected to return to center. Laich will be battling Marcus Johansson for the position. The Capitals also have several talented centers down the pipeline, with Mattias Sjogren and Cody Eakin also fighting for available center slots.

PLAYER ON THE VERGE OF A BREAKOUT SEASON

Marcus Johansson started slow in his rookie season with the Capitals, but eventually scored 27 points centering the second and third lines. Johansson worked hard this offseason, and is coming to camp having put on a lot of muscle. His speed is his greatest asset, and he's likely to score a lot more this season.

PLAYER UNDER THE MOST PRESSUREAlexander Semin

Semin is one of the most polarizing players among the Capitals fanbase. Recently, former teammates made some disparaging comments about him, and his occasional lack of focus can be frustrating for someone so innately talented. He is under contract through the end of the 2011-2012 season. If he doesn't show a better commitment to discipline, he may not see another offer from the Capitals.

PROSPECTS TO WATCH

Cody Eakin spent the latter half of his last junior hockey season with the Memorial Cup-contending Kootenay Ice, and the 20-year-old center is ready to turn pro. In all likelihood, he'll start the season with the AHL's Hershey Bears, but he's determined to make the Capitals roster. The 2009 third-rounder has phenomenal speed, and has only gotten stronger each year. Even if he doesn't make the big team, he'll probably be one of the first players called up should an injury occur.

HPT is counting down one team each day until the start of training camp. Tomorrow: Winnipeg Jets.


Photos by Getty Images

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Last Updated on Thursday, 15 September 2011 07:22