Just about every player has his own story and what they will try to accomplish in this year's camp. There are three that are interesting to watch as you gaze upon the practices at KCI.
Battle Between The Pipes
Bruce Boudreau is pretty big on seniority. That was made clear when he told reporters over the summer who was the number one goaltender for the Capitals. It was Jose Theodore.
Theo was benched in favor of the up and coming Semyon Varlamov in the playoffs and was returned only when the Caps trailed badly in game seven against the Penguins. But Theo has always claimed (and rightly so) that he was the whole reason for the Caps second place finish in the Eastern Conference to begin with.
But who is number two (bad bathroom humor aside). That is a battle to watch. Varlamov seems to be the obvious choice, but Micheal Neuvirth was in net when the Hershey Bears won their championship. It should be the battle to watch between the two. While Varlamov had some success in the NHL and in the playoffs, Neuvirth jumped from the ECHL to the AHL and going on to backstop for a championship. The battle should be one to watch and the Caps could gain from some outstanding goaltending throughout the preseason.
Mike Knuble was the biggest off season acquisition the Capitals made. He comes in to replace the leaving Viktor Kozlov(who choose to go home and play in the KHL), which means they are most likely going to use Knuble on the Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom line as a grinder. It's not a guaranteed spot for Knuble, but his signing in the off season is meant to add some sandpaper to the Caps forward lines.
If Knuble can dig in the corners and win battles on the boards, that could mean some open ice for Ovi and his wicked shot. The two are expected to work off of each other if they are paired on the top line, and it will be interested to see if the two really have some chemistry together. The two may not be paired until late in the preseason, but I would expect Knuble to share some time up on the top line during practices and scrimmages.
De - De - Defense
If there is one position the Caps have a log jam of good talent, it is on the blue line. Here is the list of defensemen who have a good shot at one of the six to seven positions available on the Caps roster: Karl Alzner, Sean Collins, John Erksine, Mike Green, Milan Jurcina, Shaone Morrison, Brian Pothier, Tom Poti, Jeff Schultz, Tyler Sloan and an outside chance for John Carlson. That is eleven players for only six spots.
I don't think there is doubt that Green, Poti, Pothier, Morrisonn and Jurcina will make the opening night roster. That really only leaves one or two spots open for the rest. That battle for those final spots should make any mistake by a defensive player a huge deal. The competition should make for some great defensive efforts on the Capitals' blue line.
- Dany Heatley is a Shark according to TSN.ca. A trade that took long enough. Heatley and a 5th round pick to San Jose for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a second round pick. I think Ottawa won in this trade to be honest. I don't think that Heatley will boost the Sharks offense anymore than Cheechoo could.
- If the Coyotes weren't confused enough about their owner, they are really confused now that Wayne Gretzky was a no show for the first day of camp. No owner, no coach, what is going on in Phoenix? Ulf Samuelsson is filling in as head coach. This organization just went from sad to pitiful.
- On a totally non-hockey subject, things will be changing big time for the Puckhead family. We found out in July that my wife is expecting our first child. It is the reason I have not been updating the blog as often as I would like. So as my life changes on the home front, I am sure it will be more difficult to keep the blog up to standard at all times (considering I do this for the love of it and don't get paid at all). We are super excited and before the season is out, there will be a new little Caps fan that Uncle Ted will want to sell a season ticket to.