By Sky Kerstein

The Capitals held practice today as they prepare for two crucial games, first at home against the struggling Montreal Canadiens Friday and then on the road against a team they are looking up at in the standings, the Toronto Maple Leafs, on Saturday.

Alex Ovechkin skated for approximately 15 minutes before practice, but didn’t take part in practice and is still listed as day-to-day after missing last night’s 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators with a lower body injury.

“He [Ovechkin] tried it and he’s going to rest today again,”  Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said.  “We’ll see what he’s like tomorrow.”

Veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik plays his former team tomorrow and isn’t happy about being a healthy scratch for the first time this season last night in Ottawa.

“He’s taken a few penalties and we need him playing better defensively,”  Hunter said on Hamrlik.  “He’s a defensive defenseman.”

Hamrlik disagrees with Hunter’s reasoning and says he hasn’t talked to Hunter yet on why he was benched.

“You should ask him [Hunter] about the penalties, because when he played I think he [Hunter] make lots of penalties in himself so he should know better,”  Hamrilik said.  “I know I take bad penalty, but if that’s reason I didn’t play, but it’s his decision.”

Also the trade rumors are swirling regarding Hamrlik as the NHL counts down to the trade deadline on Monday.

“Nothing I can do about it,”  Hamrlik said on the rumors.  “I’m happy to be here and just do my job, so I don’t have control over that.”

“Hopefully stay here and make the team a lot better and our defense,”  Hamrilik added.  “I hope we make the playoffs, [I] stay here, I don’t have reason to leave.”

Tomas Vokoun has been pulled in the Caps previous two games including one where he gave up four goals in the defeat last night.  Dale Hunter called it a “game-time decision” if Vokoun will be back in net tomorrow.

“I’m not worried about what people say, it’s not a personal thing obviously,”  Vokoun said.  “I want to help the guys win and I certain didn’t do that last game.”

What Vokoun is referring to is what Dale Hunter said following the loss last night.

“We were playing well and it’s one of these things where you get deflated,”  Hunter said last night.  “But it’s part of the game; you got to battle back.  In the third period, we battled hard.  We outchanced them, but we need our goaltending better and Tomas wasn’t sharp tonight.”

The Capitals held a players only meeting that lasted a few minutes before practice today.

“We just needed to address a few things,”  Caps forward Brooks Laich said regarding the meeting.  “A couple things were said and we’ll leave it at that.”

With two big games coming up this weekend, the Caps have to have short memories as they try and get back on the winning track.

“You can’t dwell on them, I think if you dwell on them it’s only going to cause a snowball effect,”  Caps defenseman Mike Green said on the losses.  “We’re still in it, we just got to make sure that we take advantage of the games ahead of us.”

It will be tough though as Caps center Nicklas Backstrom continues not to be skating, but a Caps spokesman said Backstrom did take part in off-ice training with strength coach Mark Nemish during the Caps four game road trip.  Still no timetable on a possible return.  Backstrom has been out since January 3rd with a concussion when he was elbowed in the head by Rene Bourque.

The Caps are currently two points behind the Florida Panthers for tops in the Southeast Division, but the Panthers have two games in hand.  The Caps are also two points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference which currently is held by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Caps forward lines today were: Knuble-Laich-Brouwer, Chimera-Perreault-Semin, Hendricks-Johansson-Aucoin, Beagle-Halpern-Ward.  All eight healthy defenseman also skated today.

Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Roman Hamrlik, Tomas Vokoun, Mike Green, Brooks Laich, Troy Brouwer & Jason Chimera had to say following practice today.

Dale Hunter Practice Audio

Roman Hamrlik Practice Audio

Tomas Vokoun Practice Audio

Mike Green Practice Audio

Brooks Laich Practice Audio

Troy Brouwer Practice Audio

Jason Chimera Practice Audio


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