The Capitals practiced today one day after knowing they’ll be without their star center Nicklas Backstrom tomorrow in game four due to a game three match penalty and a one-game suspension.
“I think it was stupid on my part,” Backstrom said. “I’ve got to deal with it now. One game, whatever I don’t like it or whatever, I’ve got to deal with it.”
Capitals Captain Alex Ovechkin isn’t happy with the decision.
“Well, sometimes you think it’s right decision, sometimes it’s not, sometimes you want to laugh,” Ovechkin said. “So right now I think it’s kind of bad decision. But there is nothing you can do.”
Capitals forward Jason Chimera doesn’t understand how Nicklas Backstrom can be suspended for a match penalty, but when Tim Thomas hit Backstrom in the head with his blocker in game two, he got nothing.
“If you use your blocker with a weapon it’s a match penalty,” Chimera, who was hit with a Thomas blocker in a game in 2010, said. “That’s just cut and dry. That’s what it is. I don’t know how he [Thomas] keeps getting away with that stuff.”
Match penalties, like the one Backstrom received in game three, come with an automatic suspension unless the NHL rescinds it, something they didn’t do in Backstrom’s case.
Chimera also pointed out that the official furthest away from the play made the match penalty call.
“You can’t make that kind of call from the red line,” Chimera said.
The Capitals might disagree with the suspension, but have to move on and prepare for the Bruins tomorrow.
“It’s disappointing,” Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said. “He’s suspended, so it’s in the history books and we have to concentrate tomorrow.”
“It’s tough to lose him,” Capitals forward Matt Hendricks said. “But we got to worry about the game tomorrow. Not about Nicky.”
The Caps are also not happy that the Bruins were offsides before the Zdeno Chara game winning goal in game three.
“Definitely offside,” Hunter said. “It was a bad call. Should’ve been called.”
The Capitals forward lines today looked like: Ovechkin-Laich-Johansson, Chimera-Perreault-Semin, Hendricks-Beagle-Brouwer, Knuble-Aucoin-Ward and fifth line in light blue jerseys with Eakin-Backstrom-Halpern-Sjogren.
Eakin, Halpern & Sjogren are the likely scratches along with Backstrom tomorrow. Mike Knuble is likely back in the line up after missing the first three games of the series.
All eight Capitals defenseman practiced today but their pairings were a little different. Dennis Wideman was working with John Erskine while Jeff Schultz was with Dmitry Orlov. It looks like Erskine will be back in the line up for the first time since February 12th. Erskine has two assists in 28 games this season.
“Ersky [Erskine] is healthy again and he’s a big strong guy in front of the net,” Hunter said.
In his first game in quite a while, Hunter expects Erskine to “keep it simple” tomorrow.
“Just keep it simple,” Hunter said. “You know Ersky. He keeps his game simple. He takes the body and he’s an honest player.”
Goalie Michal Neuvirth practiced fully today along with goalies Braden Holtby & Dany Sabourin as he continues to get closer to returning. Goalie Tomas Vokoun skated near the end of practice and took shots for the first time since re-aggravating his groin March 29th.
“No news,” Vokoun said. “It’s time-consuming injury. I feel better. At a certain point, obviously you need to be totally at different point to be able to play and play in playoffs and play a hundred percent and be able to do everything you should out there. Saying that, it is getting better and we’re working on it, but I had an MRI and it was a pretty severe tear so those take time to heal. It’s very frustrating for me to watch the team play and battle, but there’s nothing I can do.”
Vokoun also said the doctor compared it to a concussion with him and told him some people heal faster than others.
“It’s very hard,” Vokoun added. “Obviously you play whole year and go through up and downs. This is the fun time and this is when you want to play. It’s specifically for me I came here for that actual experience and not to be able to play it’s really hard. But that’s life. It’s out of my control. It’s still a game. It’s not the end of the world. It’s disappointing, but like I said, that’s how this situation is and just got to deal with it.”
The Capitals will hold a morning skate tomorrow before they try and even up the series at two games a piece with game four being at 7:30 pm from Verizon Center.
The Capitals also released a statement this afternoon on the suspension.
“We disagree with the NHL’s decision to suspend Nicklas Backstrom. This has been a competitive and physical series, and we do not understand why a suspension was imposed in this case while other incidents in this series have not been reviewed. Our singular focus now is on Game 4, and we look forward to the energy that our great fans provide.”
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Nicklas Backstrom, Jason Chimera, Troy Brouwer, Matt Hendricks, Mike Knuble & Tomas Vokoun had to say following practice.
Dale Hunter Practice Audio
Nicklas Backstrom Practice Audio
Jason Chimera Practice Audio
Troy Brouwer Practice Audio
Matt Hendricks Practice Audio
Mike Knuble Practice Audio
Tomas Vokoun Practice Audio