April 24, 2014

Washington Capitals waive Roman Hamrlik

The Washington Capitals have begun the process of trimming the dead weight from the roster by placing veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik on waivers. Hamrlik, 38, has played in just four contests for the Caps this season and was leapfrogged by yet another younger player this week for playing time, as the Caps signed and recalled Steven Oleksy from AHL Hershey. Oleksy will make his NHL debut, at 27, against the Boston Bruins Tuesday night at Verizon Center.

Hamrlik signed a two-year, $7 million deal in July 2011. Should another team claim him on waivers, the Caps would be alleviated of the rest of his contract against their salary cap. If he is not claimed, the Caps could try to send him to Hershey, release him or just let him sit in limbo.

Hamrlik was the first player chosen in the 1992 NHL draft and was the NHL’s leader among all active players in career games played with 1,383.

Head coach Adam Oates indicated Oleksy was called up because he was a right-handed shot. Oates strongly believes in pairing right and left-handed shots on the blue line. Oates explained, “As I’ve said all along, I really believe in balance. And having three righties included in that piece is very important to me. Boston is a team that comes down the walls, and they don’t give you many second chances so you need that first play to be a good one.”

“Having [Oleksy] in Hershey, he knows the system and he helps us with the boards.”

Oleksy is expected to add some toughness to the Caps rearguards. He has accumulated 151 penalty minutes in 55 games this season for AHL Hershey, including 11 fights.

Washington Capitals Practice Update & Audio for Feb. 6: Oates, Green & more

Audio courtesy Sky Kerstein

Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates mixed the lines up again at practice this Wednesday morning following another embarrassing home loss, this time to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2. Oates has tried just about every line combination out there, but at the morning practice he actually had Alex Ovechkin designated on the second line right wing, along with Mike Ribeiro at center and Wojtek Wolski at left wing.

Marcus Johansson, after what was probably his strongest game this season, was moved up with Mick Backstrom and Troy Brouwer on the first line.

Oates talked about the multiple mental and communications mistakes in the loss to the Leafs.

“I think, in the course of a game, no one plays perfect any game and there’s going to be mental mistakes and how you handle what happens after them. You try to fix them all the time, but no one plays perfect.”

So how to you correct those mental mistakes?

“You fight through it. You stay with it. I don’t think there’s been a game we’ve been out of it in a long time. That shows they’re doing a lot of things correctly. Because of that you’re in the hockey game, right to the end.”

For Oates’ full comments, and those of Mike Green, Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera and Roman Hamrlik, please click the links below.

02-06-13 Adam Oates Practice RAW

02-06-13 Mike Green Practice RAW

02-06-13 Troy Brouwer Practice RAW

02-06-13 Jason Chimera Practice RAW

02-06-13 Roman Hamrlik Practice RAW

Washington Capitals Practice Update & Audio for Jan. 17: Ovechkin, Green, Ribeiro, Hamrlik, Poti

The Washington Capitals held a mini-fanfest at Verizon Center Thursday night, complete with an open practice. While the highlight of the evening might have been Troy Brouwer “dancing” Gangnam Style during the player Q&A with DC101′s Elliot Segal, the team’s opener is less than two days away in Tampa Bay against the Southest Division foe Lightning, so every chance at practice is another opportunity to soak in Adam Oates’ systems.

“I’ve got to compliment the guys because we’ve thrown a lot at them, myself and the other coaches,” Oates said. “We’ve talked to them a lot and they’ve handled it great, because it’s been a lot. It’s a lot in a short span of time, and I think they’ve done a great job with it.”

A minor bit of news that came out Thursday was that Tom Poti, who hasn’t played in an NHL game since Jan. 12, 2011, could very well be in Saturday night’s opening lineup. Poti was back with the Caps after a conditioning assignment with AHL Hershey and apparently passed with flying colors, including scoring a power play goal. “It was awesome,” Poti said Thursday. “It was fun to be playing hockey again. I was having a blast out there and I thank them for letting me come down there and working my game a little bit.”

Here’s raw audio from Thursday, including Adam Oates, Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Mike Ribeiro, Roman Hamrlik and Tom Poti.

01-17-13 Adam Oates Practice RAW

01-17-13 Braden Holtby Practice RAW

01-17-13 Alex Ovechkin Practice RAW

01-17-13 Mike Green Practice RAW

01-17-13 Mike Ribeiro Practice RAW

01-17-13 Roman Hamrlik Practice RAW

01-17-13 Tom Poti Practice RAW

Washington Capitals 2012-13 Positional Preview: The Defensemen

Karl Alzner -Practice April 27(Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner at practice, April 27, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

With the season opener right around the corner, District Sports Page takes a look at the construction of the roster to start the season. Today, the defensemen.

Karl Alzner
Though not the most experienced, highly paid, or offensively skilled defenseman on the Washington Capitals roster, Karl Alzner has emerged as the face of the team’s defensive corps thanks to his consistent play and willingness to face the media in any circumstance. The same composure Alzner demonstrates in front of a camera is evident with his play. Per statistics site Behind the Net, Alzner faced the strongest competition of any Caps player in 2011-12, yet still led the team in plus-minus with a plus-12.

New Capitals assistant coach Calle Johansson sees a younger version of himself while watching Alzner on the ice, and the talented young defenseman should benefit under Johansson’s tutelage. Many years down the road Alzner may also challenge Johansson for the Capitals’ franchise record for games played. The Swede played 983 of his 1,109 career NHL games for the Caps, while Alzner has played 215 games in part of four seasons, including all 82 games each of the past two years.

John Carlson
Riffing on the hockey tradition to not shave during the playoffs, Carlson showed up to training camp looking like he hadn’t cut his hair since the Caps’ playoff loss in May. Surfer hair notwithstanding, Carlson is coming off a career high in goals despite serving with Alzner on Washington’s shutdown defense pairing. The young defenseman may benefit the most from new head coach Adam Oates’s offensive scheme, possessing scoring ability, the speed to get back in the transition game, and the stay-at-home defensive partner to allow him to take chances.

The real test for Carlson will be if he can maintain his defensive form and conditioning. Unlike some of his teammates, Carlson stayed in the D.C. area rather than play professionally overseas or in a North American minor league. Instead, he kept active by skating informally with a small group that included teammates Mike Green, Jason Chimera, and Jay Beagle and former teammate and Maryland native Jeff Halpern. In doing so Carlson has saved several months of wear-and-tear on his body, but a lack of conditioning could lead to injury or poor play if he isn’t able to reach suitable form in short order.

John Erskine
Erskine is of the class of players who stood to suffer the most from the NHL lockout: a non-skill, marginal roster player good enough to stick around the NHL but not good enough to take one of the limited roster spots available to non-Europeans in an overseas league. Instead the Kington, Ontario native returned to his hometown to skate and workout on his own, and showed up to training camp looking much thinner and quicker than he has in years. That seems unusual for a defender for whom the most fitting adjective has traditionally been “hulking,” but perhaps Erskine took a look at film from new assistant head coach Calle Johansson’s career and realized he needed to alter his style to stay in Washington’s longterm plans.

In 2011-12 Erskine skated in only 28 games, spending much of the season as a healthy scratch while Dale Hunter relied on rookie Dmitry Orlov and the same roster game-in and game-out. With the addition of Jack Hillen and return of Tom Poti, Erskine will be part of a crowded field vying for one of the bottom pairing spots on the Capitals’ roster. He remains Washington’s de facto enforcer, a status without much cachet under Oates but which nonetheless helps his chances at securing one of the seven roster spots on defense to start the season.

Mike Green
2011-12 was a lost season for the former 31-goal scorer, who only played 32 games due to a recurring groin injury. He’s now completely healthy, but that’s a recent development as of about a month ago. Across the league groin injuries as a major concern for this condensed season, and Green is as susceptible as anyone else. Regardless of whether he’s paired with Roman Hamrlik, Dmitry Orlov, Jeff Schultz, or another teammate, Green will be the defenseman responsible for moving the puck when he’s on the ice, leaving him open to contact.

A complete season would be a triumph for Green, but a return to his scoring form would also be appreciated by the Washington organization. Shortly before the end of the lockout Green underwent laser eye surgery, which if nothing else may give him a psychological boost if he thinks he’s seeing the puck better. Green has traditionally played the right point on the Caps’ power play, which was Oates’ specialty while an assistant coach for New Jersey and Tampa Bay, and any increase in Washington’s power play effectiveness from last season’s 18th will reflect on Green’s personal statistics as well.

Roman Hamrlik
A former first overall draft pick and the most veteran member of the Washington Capitals, Hamrlik is a usually soft-spoken player who drew jeers during the lockout as one of the few voices players to explicitly criticize the NHLPA’s stance on negotiations. As one of six current players — Teemu Selanne, Ray Whitney, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Brodeur, and the soon-to-retire Chris Pronger are the others — to experience three lockouts, Hamrlik’s position is understandable, even if his means of expressing it was ill-considered.

Despite his active NHL best 1,379 career games played, Hamrlik remains capable of playing top-four minutes and was a steady partner to Mike Green last season. He’s seen it all, which makes him a valuable presence in a young defensive corps, and his late-career transition from powerplay quarterback to defensive-minded stopper is the blueprint for teammate Poti to do the same. The ascendancy of Orlov or return of a healthy Poti will spell a decrease in time for Hamrlik, and how he handles the move may be his real legacy with the Caps.

Jack Hillen
At the age of 26, Hillen is already on his third NHL franchise having played parts of four seasons for the New York Islanders before skating in 55 games for the Nashville Predators last season. Prior to signing a one-year deal with Washington in July, Hillen was best known to Capitals fans as the player whose jaw was broken by an Alex Ovechkin slapshot in January 2010. He’s all recovered now, and will challenge for a depth position on the Caps after skating on the third pairing for a dominant Predators defensive corps.

Hillen is a puck-moving defenseman, and his smooth skating drew raves from locker room neighbor Alzner after the team’s first training camp practice. That style of play will endear him with both Oates and Johansson, who are known to appreciate smooth skaters. He’s also acclimated well with his new teammates, sharing jokes with locker room neighbor Alzner after the team’s first session.

Dmitry Orlov
A potential breakout year for Orlov was derailed first by the lockout and then by a groin injury suffered in December, ironically during the Hershey Bears’ AHL Showcase game at the Verizon Center. Before his injury, Orlov was largely underperforming in Hershey with only one goal and eight assists in 18 games. His lengthy stint with the NHL squad last season removed any doubt that he belonged in the big leagues, so his production for the Bears may be more a case of personal disappointment than regression.

His rookie season with the Capitals last year saw Orlov post three goals and 16 assists in 60 games, averaging a respectable 16:52 time on ice. One of the smaller defensemen on Washington’s roster, Orlov’s abilities fit better in Adam Oates’ system than that of Dale Hunter, who nonetheless relied heavily on the services of the Russian defender over those of John Erskine and Jeff Schultz much of the season.

Tom Poti
For the first time since 2009, the Boston-born Poti is healthy at the start of the season. A groin injury and then fractured pelvis kept Poti to only 22 games played in the 2010-11 season, and he was on long-term injured reserve for all of last season, during which general manager George McPhee said he thought Poti’s career was over. Instead, the defenseman declared himself 100 percent healthy shortly before the end of the lockout, and since then has proven a man of his word. After passing his physical Poti was sent to the Hershey Bears for a conditioning assignment, upon which he scored a power play goal in his first game Saturday night.

It’s unclear what Poti can bring to the Capitals roster at this point, if only because no one has any clue how his skill set has changed in the past two years. He was already beginning to transition from puck-moving offensive threat to physical stay-at-home defender when he was injured, and it’s hard to imagine him resuming the puck-moving role with Green, Carlson, and Hillen or Orlov on the roster. Although he’s 35, staying out of professional hockey for two years has saved that much wear and tear on his body and allowed him to heal up from all those little aches and bruises that accumulate over the course of the years.

Cameron Schilling
Of the ten defensemen invited to training camp, Schilling was the longest shot when it comes to making the roster, and indeed has already been sent back to Hershey. The undrafted player from Indiana was signed as a free agent last spring immediately after the conclusion of his senior year at Miami University and appeared in 11 games for the Hershey Bears. His stint included four games in the Bears’ five-game first round series loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, in which Schilling netted two goals. In 33 games this season in Hershey Schilling has three goals and four assists and is fifth on the team with a plus-6 rating.

Compared to the rest of the players in the Capitals organization, Schilling has a leg up in one regard: he’s the only player with significant experience under Adam Oates as head coach, when Oates took over bench duties in Hershey for a stretch in late 2012. Although George McPhee insisted that every player in camp has a chance to make the Capitals’ roster, Schilling’s presence was largely to get the youngster acclimated to the NHL experience. Washington only has four defensemen with NHL experience under contract for the 2013-14 season, and the camp invite was a notice to Schilling that he’s expected to be ready should the need arise later this season and to contend for a spot next season and beyond.

Jeff Schultz
The erstwhile top-four defenseman and league plus-minus leader is now relegated to fighting for a spot on the Capitals bottom pair every night. Although Schultz has seemed to be on the outs for the past few seasons, the four-year, $11 million contract he signed after the 2009-10 season has kept him in Washington red and white. He was a favorite of Bruce Boudreau, who coached Schultz while in Hershey, but began to fall out of favor under Dale Hunter’s regime. It remains to be seen how he fits into Calle Johansson’s defensive scheme.

Schultz has demonstrated the ability to stick around for the past few seasons, and the quiet Canadian seems to get along well with his teammates. Although he doesn’t possess overwhelming physical or puck-moving capabilities, he plays strong positional hockey and rarely panics in his own end. There is no guarantee that Schultz will be able to maintain his roster spot this season, particularly with the return of a healthy Poti, but stranger things have happened.

Friday Caps Practice Update & Audio: Backstrom “No Concussion”

ARLINGTON, VA–The Capitals continued their player-run practices and had a terrific surprise when Nicklas Backstrom took the ice for the first time.  Backstrom suffered a neck injury on December 26th and flew to Michigan last Wednesday to see Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher at the University of Michigan who specializes in concussions.

“No concussion. So we can all be calm,”  Backstrom said.

Backstrom added that he’s “100 percent” and is planning on being in the line-up for opening night.

Backstrom, who missed 40 games last year due to a concussion, said today was the first time he skated since December 26th and that the injury was more neck.

“Feels good to be back here and practice on ice again,”  Backstrom said.

Veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik also skated for the first time today and was very happy to see Backstrom skate today.

“He’s one of the best players on the team and we need him desperately,”  Hamrlik said.  “It’s a big thing to have him.”

Hamrlik also talked about his anti-NHLPA comments during the lockout and the negative feedback he received from his teammates.

“I said what I had to say. It’s past.”

Hamrlik added, “Everybody was frustrated. I think I was the most frustrated guy going through the third lockout.”

Hamrlik also said that there is “no problem” between him and Troy Brouwer.  Brouwer was the most public with his displeasure to Hamrlik’s comments.

The Caps who skated today were: Holtby, Backstrom, Hamrlik, Johansson, Hendricks, Chimera, Hillen, Poti, Perreault, Brouwer, Ward, Crabb, Schilling, Ribeiro, Schultz.

These practices aren’t mandatory and Mike Green didn’t skate for the second day in a row.

Alzner, Beagle, Carlson, Ovechkin, Erskine all didn’t skate today either.

Brooks Laich skated for approximately an hour before the player run workout for the second day in a row.

Listen here to what Nicklas Backstrom & Roman Hamrlik had to say following practice today.

Nicklas Backstrom Practice Audio

01-11-13 Nicklas Backstrom Practice RAW

Roman Hamrlik Practice Audio

01-11-13 Roman Hamrlik Practice RAW

CAPS: Happy Birthday, Roman Hamrlik

HAPPY 38th BIRTHDAY ROMAN HAMRLIK!

The Washington Capitals Defenseman was born on 04/12/1974 in Zlin, Czech Republic.

Roman Hamrlik has been very involved in the DC community this season. Hamrlik met hockey fans as part of the Caps Fall Puck Surprise in October, participated in the Kids Club Sticks and Sneakers with Jason Chimera in December and, of course, was part of Casino Night in February. Hamrlik’s wife recently made spring arts and crafts with kids at Children’s Hospital.

Happy 38th Birthday to #44.

Roman Hamrlik at Caps Club Kids event (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

CAPS: Washington Capitals’ Better Halves Visited Children’s Nationals Medical Center

“It’s nice to come out and help them [kids] feel better, give them a little break of what is going on in their lives every day.” -Carmen Brouwer (Wife of Troy Brouwer)

The Washington Capitals’ wives and girlfriends visited Children’s National Medical Center on Monday, April 2, to make Easter and spring-themed arts and crafts with patients (and patients’ siblings) in the hospital’s atrium. This was the Capitals second trip to Children’s National Medical Center this season and their twelfth consecutive season working with Children’s. Caps players Karl Alzner, Jeff Halpern, Matt Hendricks and Mike Knuble, along with mascot Slapshot, played video games and colored with patients on Feb. 27.

Capitals Michal Neuvirth's girlfriend Monika Hybnerova, Karl Alzner's fiance Mandy Flemmer and Dennis Wideman's fiance Lindsay MacDonald making spring arts and crafts with kids at Children's Hospital April 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Caps’ better halves Ashley Beagle (Jay Beagle’s wife), Carmen Brouwer (Troy Brouwer’s wife), Mandy Flemmer (Karl Alzner’s fiance), Monika Hybnerova, (Michal Neuvirth’s girlfriend), Cynthia Lavoie (Roman Hamrlik’s wife) and Lindsay MacDonald (Dennis Wideman’s fiance) made tiaras, cards, signs, Easter baskets and other arts and crafts items with kids in the atrium at Children’s National Medical Center.

“Washington Capitals’ wives and girlfriends are here to spend time with kids making arts and crafts and just kind of take their mind off their treatments and other things that they are going through,” said Mark Miller, Communications Director for The Children’s Hospital Foundation.” Miller continued, “We’ve had doctors and nurses tell us that it actually contributes to the healing process to have some fun, do something different or see people they admire, whether its the wives and girlfriends or the players themselves. Just having someone who is important or special come to see them means a lot to them.”

Capitals better halves at Children's Hospital April 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Capitals Jay Beagle and Troy Brouwer's wives and Karl Alzner's fiance making spring arts and crafts with kids at Children's Hospital April 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Capitals Roman Hamrlik's wife Cynthia Lavoie with child at Children's Hospital April 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Capitals Dennis Wideman's fiance Lindsay MacDonald with child at Children's Hospital April 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Capitals Michal Neuvirth's girlfriend Monika Hybnerova making arts and crafts with kida at Children's Hospital April 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Capitals Jay Beagle's wife Ashley Beagle with child at Children's Hospital April 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Capitals Troy Brouwer's wife Carmen Brouwer with child at Children's Hospital April 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Capitals Roman Hamrlik's wife Cynthia Lavoie with child at Children's Hospital April 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Comcast's Jill Sorenson interviewing a child at Children's Hospital April 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Capitals Dennis Wideman's fiance Lindsay MacDonald with child at Children's Hospital April 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Children's Hospital April 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Children’s National Medical Center is the only exclusive provider of pediatric care in the metropolitan Washington area and is the only freestanding children’s hospital between Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Norfolk, and Atlanta. Serving the nation’s children for more than 140 years, Children’s National is a proven leader in the development and application of innovative new treatments for childhood illness and injury.

Cheryl Nichols is a Columnist and Photographer for District Sports Page. She is credentialed to cover the Washington Capitals and has reported on the community service and fan events for Nats News Network and Caps News Network since 2006. Cheryl is an accomplished action photographer and has been published in The Washington Post and many other local media. She was a credentialed photographer for the 2010 season covering the Washington Nationals. You can follow her on Twitter @cnichols14.

Is Dale Hunter’s mantra of “play well and you’re in” effective at the NHL level?

The mantra ever since Dale Hunter became coach of the Washington Capitals has been “play well and you’re in.” It’s been that way for the goalies, veteran net-crashing right wingers and Czech defenseman. Jeff Schultz and John Erskine too. But we have to wonder, is it the right way to do things on the NHL level, especially with more veteran players?

Negative reinforcement can be a powerful thing. So too is a fear of failure. Different personalities are motivated in different ways, and we’ve seen this play out with the Caps over the last few weeks.

Michal Neuvirth and Jeff Schultz seem to be playing better after their stints on the bench. Of course, that might be anecdotal. Schultz has always had his strengths and weaknesses, and riding the pine for 20 games hasn’t — and wasn’t — going to turn him into Chris Pronger. With Neuvirth, it might simply be a case of getting the opportunity to play after becoming an afterthought while Tomas Vokoun played so well for that stretch. [Read more...]

Caps in Advance: Week 21

There are three games on tap for the Washington Capitals this week, but I can guarantee that this morning every member of the team is squarely focused on the trade deadline at 3 pm this afternoon.

With positive results on both ends of a back-to-back over the weekend, Washington positioned themselves as buyers on trade deadline, or at least not sellers.  General manager George McPhee is renowned for not showing his hand when it comes to trades, so expect some surprises today.

Around 20 games remain in the regular season, and the Southeast Division is going to be a three-team dogfight for the next five weeks.  The Capitals, Florida Panthers, and Winnipeg Jets all sit within three points of each other; as the league standings currently hold, the Division winner will be the 3rd seed in the playoffs, and the other two teams will be battling for the final spot in the Eastern Conference.  The teams sitting in 4th-7th have begun to separate from those in 8th on down. [Read more...]

Game 40 Re-CAP–Kings 5, Caps 2: Crowned With Thorns

How soon can Nicklas return?  (photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Here’s how bad it got for the Washington Capitals Monday night at the Staples Center: Much of the last two periods was devoted to a social media guessing game regarding Capitals beat writer Mike Vogel‘s least favorite musical acts. As entertainments go, it certainly beat anything the Caps served up on the ice as they fell to the Los Angeles Kings 5-2 — their second straight loss — and ensured that they would return home from their two-game California swing empty-handed.

The game started well enough, as Marcus Johansson potted the first of his two goals 94 seconds in when he finished off a 2-on-1 break by wristing a shot past Jonathan Bernier to give Washington a 1-0 lead.  But despite their early deficit, Los Angeles had the better of the puck possession, scoring chances, and shots, and their pressure finally paid off with 8:19 left in the first period when Kyle Clifford banged a rebound past Tomas Vokoun to tie the game. [Read more...]

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