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Caps Prepare For Biggest Game Of Season…So Far

By Sky Kerstein
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Washington Capitals

(Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Sky Kerstein grew up in Chantilly, Virginia and is a 2001 graduat...
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The Capitals (38-30-8, 84 points) prepare for a huge game tomorrow hosting the Buffalo Sabres (37-29-10, 84 points) with playoff implications on the line.  With six games left, the Caps and Sabres are fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

“It’s kind of games everyone want’s to coach and play,”  Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said.  “It’s like a game seven in a series. So it’s big game, the players know it, we know it, and so does the other team know it and their coaches know it. It should be a heck of a game.”

Alex Ovechkin has been on fire with goals in five straight games and nine goals in his last seven games and leading the Caps to a 6-2-2 record in their last ten games.

“He’s fun to watch man, when he’s in that mode you just follow in behind him and just ride his coattails I guess,”  Caps forward Brooks Laich said on Ovechkin.  “He’s a leader, he can elevate his play and lead.  He’s a tremendous leader that way.”

Ovechkin was named the NHL’s ‘Third Star’ of the week.

Nicklas Backstrom participated in his first full practice with the entire team since January 6th.  He received the concussion on January 3rd vs. the Calgary Flames and symptoms didn’t occur right away.

“It felt good, but I think it’s going to be even better,”  Caps forward Nicklas Backstrom said.  “I feel like I’m getting closer every day so that’s good.”

Backstrom wouldn’t put a timetable on his return.

The Caps forward lines today looked like: Ovechkin-Laich-Brouwer, Chimera-Perreault-Semin, Johansson-Halpern-Aucoin, Hendricks-Beagle-Knuble-Ward-Backstrom.

Joel Ward practiced for the first time today since suffering a “lower-body” injury last Thursday in Philadelphia.

“I feel pretty good just to come off crutches,”  Ward said.  “I’m making progress. Actually a lot better today. Better than I thought. Still a little bit of work to do.”

Ward said he took a shot off his foot from Danny Briere on Thursday and wouldn’t rule himself out for tomorrow.

All three goalies participated in practice today.   Vokoun still isn’t ready to return from a groin injury.  Braden Holtby, who got his third career shutout yesterday, admitted that he parked his car at the Harrisburg Airport daily lot, 20 dollars a day, last Sunday and it’s been sitting there ever since.

“I was told I was only going to be up for a couple of days,”  Holtby said.  “So I slept in a little bit more, got about a half hour extra sleep, so I just parked in the daily parking.”

As of today, Holtby has racked up a $160 parking bill.

Defenseman John Erskine, who hasn’t played since February 12th, missed practice with a “lower-body” injury and is day-to-day.

Yesterday the Caps went with seven defenseman, Hunter said it would be a “game-time” decision if they would do it again tomorrow.  Hunter also would not name a goalie for tomorrow.

Today was also team picture day, and guys like Braden Holtby and Keith Aucoin were included.

Washington Capitals

(Credit: Sky Kerstein, 106.7 The FAN/CBSDC)

Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Brooks Laich, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby, Mike Green and Joel Ward had to say following practice today.

Dale Hunter Practice Audio

Brooks Laich Practice Audio

Nicklas Backstrom Practice Audio

Braden Holtby Practice Audio

Mike Green Practice Audio

Joel Ward Practice Audio

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