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Mike Weber 'wanted to be a Penguin,' but now wants to beat them

Mike Weber 'wanted to be a Penguin,' but now wants to beat them

Capitals defenseman Mike Weber is not ashamed to admit it. As a child growing up just 20 miles north of downtown Pittsburgh, he always wanted to be a Penguin.

There was one problem, however, his grandmother was a diehard Steelers fans and so was everyone else in his family.

“The town bleeds black and gold,” said Weber, who is expected to be in the lineup tonight at Consol Energy Cenrer in place of the suspended Brooks Orpik when the Capitals face the Penguins in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series.

“I grew up with that mindset. In school it was all about football.”

As a tall, athletic teenager, Weber played defensive back and defensive line, but after watching Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis and Paul Coffey win two Stanley Cups in the early 1990s at the old Igloo, his true love was hockey.

“I played football for a few years, until I had to choose between football and hockey,” Weber said. “It was an easy decision. I wanted to be a Penguin. I didn’t fit in that well in school. I’m sure hockey is a lot more popular now than it was when I was coming up.

“They take (football) pretty serious in Western Pennsylvania and when I missed one football practice for a hockey game they kind of gave me the ultimatum. I said, ‘OK, see ya later.’”

Weber attended Seneca Valley High School in Cranberry Township, close to where the Penguins practice today, and moved to Tecumseh, Ontario, where he played four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the second round of the 2006 NHL draft.

One of Weber’s greatest hockey memories was recording his first NHL point in his first-ever game at the old Igloo, which is now a parking lot across the street from Consol. His family and friends were there to share the moment.

MORE CAPITALS: THREE GAME SUSPENSION FOR ORPIK

“It was special because I went to a few Penguins games as a kid and listened on the radio on the way back from late-night hockey practices,” Weber recalled. “They catapulted me into watching and wanting to play and it worked out pretty well.”

Weber spent his entire NHL career with the Sabres before they traded him to the Capitals for a third-round draft pick just before February’s NHL trade deadline. 

In his first game in Pittsburgh as a Capital on March 20, Weber made quite a few enemies when he checked rookie Bryan Rust from behind and was given a game misconduct. 

“I know I’ve had some impact there playing against them,” he said. “Maybe I get mixed reviews now about going back.” 

Weber says his rugged style is a product of his upbringing.

“It’s a special area and it’s nice to be from such a hard-working town,” he said. “As I’ve gone along in my career I’ve always kept that chip on my shoulder and not forget where I came from. They’re working-class people and I try to bring that along with me. 

“I always get jacked up to play the Pens. It’s always fun going back to Pittsburgh, but it’s more fun to beat them.”

As for his grandmother and the rest of his family, he expects blood to be thicker than their deep-rooted rooting interests. 

“They have to support their family,” Weber said. “They can wear a Pens jersey if they want underneath, but it better be a Caps jacket on top. They better be supporting the family.”

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Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

When the Capitals acquired defenseman Michal Kempny on Monday, that put the team at the maximum of 23 players on the roster including eight defenseman.

Another move seemed likely and the Caps made it on Tuesday by placing veteran blueliner Taylor Chorney on waivers.

Teams now will have 24 hours to potentially claim Chorney. Should he clear at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, it is expected that he will be sent to the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Whether he is claimed or sent to Hershey, his entire $800,000 cap hit will no longer count against the Capitals' salary.

One important thing to note, however, is that placing Chorney on waivers was not required in order for Washington to remain under the salary cap.

Having eight defensemen would mean scratching two every game — assuming the team does not dress seven and after that failed experiment in last year's playoffs, why would they — which means it would be a struggle to make sure everyone gets consistent playing time in the final weeks of the season.

Perhaps placing Chorney on waivers is the team trying to get him more playing time to keep him sharp in case the team suffers injuries on the blue line and he is called upon in the playoffs.

Or perhaps it could mean something else.

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Chorney played on Feb. 15, but that was during the mentor's trip. Barry Trotz's policy for those trips is to get everyone in at least one of those two games. Before that, Chorney had not played since Jan. 2. It certainly seems like the team was comfortable with him being the designated No. 7 and was not all that concerned about getting him regular playing time before now.

When asked if the Kempny trade would mean any roster moves, Trotz said Monday that he was not sure and hinted that perhaps more moves could be coming from general manager Brian MacLellan. Moving Chorney's salary off the books does not clear much cap room, but it does clear some.

Perhaps MacLellan has another move up his sleeve before Monday's trade deadline.

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Michal Kempny excited to move from last place Chicago to first place Caps

Michal Kempny excited to move from last place Chicago to first place Caps

On Sunday, Michal Kempny was a defenseman struggling for a spot in the lineup for a team poised to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. On Monday, he became potentially an important piece on the roster of the first place Capitals.

The last few days have been quite the whirlwind for Kempny who tallied an assist for Chicago on Saturday in a 7-1 blowout against what is now his current team. While the Blackhawks may have gotten the better of Washington that night, Kempny is excited about the postseason opportunity that now lies in front of him.

"Nobody knows what's happening in Chicago, but I'm really happy and I'm really glad that I can be here," Kempny told reporters on Tuesday after his first skate with the team. "There is option of play a playoff and I'm very happy for it."

RELATED: WHERE MICHAL KEMKPNY FITS IN THE CAPS' LINEUP

The 27-year-old Czech defenseman played only 31 games for the Blackhawks this season, but considering Washington's need to shore up its defense before the trade deadline and the team's willingness to give up a third-round pick to acquire him, it is likely he will have a much more significant role with the Caps.

"I thought that I [was] going to get more space on the ice and more ice time, but I didn't play more than half games," Kempny said of his decision to originally sign with Chicago. "But now I'm here and I'm really glad that I'm here. Washington is amazing city and great organization and I hope I will get a chance to access myself on the ice more than in Chicago."

Kempny will not play in Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but did say he expects to play Thursday when the team visits the Florida Panthers.

When he does get into the lineup, it is unclear just how big a role he will play initially or how the team foresees utilizing him going forward. He is a left-shot defenseman and did tell reporters he prefers to play on that side. It seems unlikely the team would acquire him just to put him on his offside.

As of now, however, everything regarding his role in Washington is up in the air.

"I need everything settle down a little bit," he said. "New teammates, new people around here."

MORE CAPITALS: MEET MICHAL KEMPNY