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Tuesday Roundup

With the likely return of Alex Semin to the lineup for Wednesday night's game against the Bolts (must be the nine goals and 13 points he had against Tampa last year that got him healthy), the lines at Monday's practice were as follows:
Ovechkin - Kozlov - Clark
Backstrom - Nylander - Semin
Pettinger - Steckel - Gordon
Brashear - Laich - Motzko
Fleischmann - Sutherby - Bradley
More noteworthy to the torch-and-pitchfork masses (myself included), the power play units looked like this:
Ovechkin - Kozlov - Clark
Poti - Green

Pettinger - Nylander - Backstrom
Pothier - Semin
We've lamented the power play enough for the time being and seemed to have gotten our collective wish - no mo' Motz. Now it's time to execute... or be executed (cue scary music). On a side note, is it me or does that second unit have "Martin St. Louis shorthanded goal" written all over it?

As for the five-on-five lines, while I'm sure it was difficult for Glen Hanlon to break up the Matt Pettinger - Boyd Gordon - Chris Clark third line even for a night (more on that in a second), give me David Steckel and Gordo lining up opposite Vinny Lecavalier and St. Louis and I'll take my chances with the rest of the matchups all the way down the roster. Besides, even though the third line is primarly out there to keep the opponent's top line in check, with no goals through seven games, the trio needs to start chipping in a bit offensively and maybe this will get at least one of the three going.

As for that temporarily-defunct third line, it seemed to be just a matter of time before they broke through on the score sheet, but it also seems that Clark has been pressing a bit (I'm sure that, as captain, he feels a little more pressure to right the ship than the rest of the guys in the room), and he has taken a few ill-timed penalties along the way. Clearly his role is (or at least has been) different this year than it was last year - the Caps don't need 30 goals from Clark this year, but they certainly do need 15-20 - and perhaps a goal or two playing on the top line will give him the confidence to return to the third line, relax, and just go out and play hockey.

But is a return to the third line for Clark a certainty? I'd be willing to bet on it, if for no other reason than because that's where he "belongs" on a playoff team. The Caps can force square pegs into round holes all they want to, and have experienced varying degrees of team and individual success in doing so (think Clark, Dainius Zubrus, Brian Pothier, etc.), but Hanlon knows what playoff teams look like, and he knows that his PGC line "looks" like a playoff team's third line. In recent weeks we've heard the coach repeatedly refer to Anaheim's Travis Moen - Rob Niedermayer - Samuel Pahlsson line, and with good reason - that's the benchmark for checking lines League-wide, and Hanlon believes he has a comparable trio here (fun fact: that Ducks line combined for a minus-16 rating last year, while the PGC trio combined for a minus-13 rating).

At the end of the day - and this isn't to take anything away from him - Chris Clark is a third-liner on a playoff team (at least one that wants to make some noise once there) and a first-liner on a team heading for the draft lottery (as a buddy of mine from Alabama would say, "Just because you put a kitten in the oven don't make it a biscuit"). This team sees itself as the former (a playoff team, not a golden-browned feline), and knows that if they can't find a first-line right wing within the organization, they have the means to go get one (I'm of the mind that we'll see Alex Ovechkin - one of the Swedes - Viktor Kozlov before that happens, however). They also know that, in the long-run, Chris Clark isn't that guy any more, not because of diminished skills, but because of heightened expectations and an organizational sense of urgency.

So lock in that third line, Coach, and worry about making the rest of the lineup look - and more importantly play - like a playoff team.

Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:

The geniuses at the League offices have finally decided to put the goalies and their stats on the game summary sheets. The stat sheets are still miles away from reader-friendly, but this is a step in the right direction.... A trio of Monday Power Rankings are out, with the Caps placing 23rd, 24th and 24th.... Darren Elliot identifies the Caps' identity as "a team-first philosophy founded on building from within" - do you buy or sell that as the Caps' "brand"?... Finally, in the least surprising news of the day, everyone in Philadelphia is ugly (and Rod Brind'Amour hasn't even played there since early 2000!). But before you call that buddy in the City of Brotherly Love to remind him that he's so ugly that when he was a kid his parents would sit him in the corner and feed him with a slingshot, you may be interested to know that D.C. is the nation's second-least attractive city.

Daily Awards
  • Hart: Milan Michalek (2G, including the game-winning shorthander, +2, 5 SOG)
  • Ross: Seven players tied with 2 points each
  • Norris: Mike Komisarek (A, +1, 2 SOG, 4 hits, 5 blocked shots)
  • Vezina: Cristobal Huet (W, 31 saves on 32 shots against)
  • Richard: Milan Michalek (2G)
  • Calder: Mikhail Grabovski (G, +1)
  • Aiken: Manny Fernandez (L, 6 goals allowed on 20 shots against)