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Six UFA defensemen who could help the Caps

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Six UFA defensemen who could help the Caps

On Friday, we took a look at six free-agent forwards the Capitals might consider when the curtain for signing unrestricted free agents rises at noon on Sunday.

Today well take a look at the defensemen that might receive consideration from the Caps.

General manager George McPhee said Wednesday hed be satisfied heading into the 2011-12 season with the eight-man defense corps the Capitals have now.

That depth chart currently looks like this:

Karl Alzner -- John CarlsonRoman Hamrlik -- Mike GreenDmitry Orlov -- Jeff SchultzJohn Erskine -- Cameron Schilling
The Caps have high hopes for the 23-year-old Schilling, a solid, two-way defenseman whom they signed out of Miami University Ohio in March. Schilling played four years at Miami and recorded one goal and 13 assists in 39 games last season before joining the Hershey Bears for seven games.

But if they can land a top-four defenseman who can bump Hamrlik down to the third unit and allow Schilling some time to grow, they may do it, especially if they fail to land the top winger theyre seeking.

Heres a look at six free-agent blue liners that might draw some interest from the Caps:

Ryan Suter, PredatorsAge: 27
Position: Defense, shoots left
Last season: 7 goals, 39 assists, 46 points, plus-15
2011-12 salary: 3.5 million
Skinny: The Predators are still hoping to keep their big three of goalie Pekka Rinne, and the defense pairing of Shea Weber and Suter, but Suters price on the open market will be obscene. The Penguins and Red Wings are expected to make the strongest pitches for Suter, who, like Zach Parise, is in the prime of his career at 27. Some believe the Penguins might be able to lure both Suter and Parise. The Caps have the money to land Suter, but theyve got strong competition.

Matt Carle, FlyersAge: 27
Position: Defense, shoots left
Last season: 4 goals, 34 assists, 38 points, plus-4
2011-12 salary: 3.8 million
Skinny: Carle is not at the same level as Suter, but he can log 25 minutes a night and is quietly effective in all areas. Two seasons ago he was paired with Chris Pronger on the Flyers top unit and helped get the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final. Hes good enough to step into the Capitals top four and give them significant depth.

Jason Garrison, PanthersAge: 27
Position: Defense, shoots left
Last season: 16 goals, 17 assists, 33 points, plus-6
2011-12 salary: 700,000
Skinny: Garrison finished third among NHL defensemen with 16 goals last season and as a result, hell cash in on a significant raise. Garrison has an excellent shot from the point and would be a nice power play addition for the Capitals, especially with Mike Greens injury history.

Bryan Allen, HurricanesAge: 31
Position: Defense shoots left
Last season: 1 goal, 13 assists, 14 points, minus-1
2011-12 salary: 3.15 million
Skinny: At 6-foot-5, 226 pounds, Allen might be the most physical defenseman on the open market. When he was taken fourth overall in the 1998 draft, Allen was compared to Derian Hatcher. He has not lived up to that comparison but he would give the Caps the snarly defenseman they could use on the back end.

Bryce Salvador, DevilsAge: 36
Position: Defense, shoots left
Last season: 0 goals, 9 assists, 9 points, plus-18
2011-12 salary: 2.9 million
Skinny: Salvador went the entire regular season without scoring a goal, then exploded for four goals and 10 assists in 24 playoff games for the Devils. He took some crucial penalties in the Final, but, like Allen, he plays a nasty game. He also played under Caps coach Adam Oates, who could pull off quite a trifecta by luring Parise, Salvador and Marty Brodeur to D.C.
Michal Rozsival, CoyotesAge: 33
Position: Defense, shoots right
Last season: 1 goal, 12 assists, 13 points, plus-82011-12 salary: 3 million
Skinny: Rozsival is one of those defensemen you usually dont notice, in a good way. Much like Roman Hamrlik, his days as a point producer are behind him, but he plays a solid two-way game and would be a steady No. 4 or No. 5 addition if the price was right.

Which leads us to McPhees theory on free agency spending:

If you do something, its always more than the guys worth, he said. The question is how much more and are you trying to trade him by November because he cost too much.

So, of those six defensemen, which do you think would be the best fit in D.C. Or do you have one of your own? Join the conversation below.

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

5 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

A shorthanded Capitals team marched into Colorado and took a 3-2 overtime win over the Avalanche on Friday.

Here are five reasons the Caps won.

A big glove save

With no T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov or Braden Holtby, the Caps were a bit shorthanded heading into the game. After the Avalanche took a 1-0 lead just 68 seconds in, it felt like it could be a very long night for Washington.

It could have been if not for an early breakaway save by Pheonix Copley.

Soon after the goal, Nathan MacKinnon grabbed the puck on a breakaway. MacKinnon is one of the best offensive players in the league and not the guy you want to see going in alone on Copley on a breakaway.

Copley, however, flashed the glove and made the save to keep the game at 1-0.

One year ago to the day, the Caps lost 6-2 in Colorado. With the injuries Washington was dealing with, it’s not a stretch to think this game could have gone off the rails quickly had the Avalanche jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

Tic-Tac-Toe

The Caps struggled through the first period to get any real penetration on Colorado’s defense and were kept largely on the perimeter with very few high-danger opportunities. The Avalanche defense got a bit more porous in the second and Washington took advantage.

Travis Boyd collected the puck in the offensive zone below the goal line. As he skated along the wall, he found himself face-to-face with four Colorado players who were all just following the puck. As far as defense goes, that’s not an ideal situation. Boyd found a wide-open Chandler Stephenson on the cross-ice pass, Stephenson goes back left to Devante Smith-Pelly who had an empty net to shoot on to get the Caps on the board and tie the game at one.


Game speed

After six seasons in Washington, Philipp Grubauer has faced literally thousands of shots from Alex Ovechkin in practice. But he never faced one of those shots in a game until Friday. Those shots come off the stick a bit faster when it counts as Grubauer learned.

Nicklas Backstrom entered the offensive zone with the puck and backhanded it to Ovechkin. Backstrom kept driving to the net drawing the defense with him except for Tyson Barrie. Backstrom’s passed to the left, but Ovechkin collected it going right which caught Barrie flatfooted. Ovehckin easily skated around Barrie to find an open shooting lane, then snapped a shot past Grubauer to put the Caps up 2-1. Ovechkin’s celebration was almost instantaneous, he knew he had Grubauer beat.


A late penalty

The referees really put away the whistles in the third period. They even missed a clear high-stick to Dmitry Orlov that drew blood and should have been a double-minor. Colorado came back to tie the game, but Smith-Pelly finally drew a blatant holding penalty from Ian Cole with just over a minute left to go in regulation.

The Avalanche survived to force overtime, but Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winner on the power play just 22 seconds in for the win.

Tom Wilson making a Tom Wilson play

Space is important in hockey. That’s what makes a four-on-three power play harder to cover than a five-on-four power play. You know what’s even better? A three-on-two.

The Caps entered overtime on a power play which gave them a four-on-three to start. Tom Wilson had the puck on the wall and took a hit from Carl Soderberg. He saw the hit coming and took it so he could make the pass to Backstrom. He won the board battle and the hit took Soderberg out of the play, giving the Caps a three-on-two in the offensive zone to work with. Backstrom passed to John Carlson who passed back to Backstrom. He had all day to fire the game-winner and it was all thanks to a tremendous play from Wilson that most people would not have noticed.

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No Kuznetsov, no Oshie and no Holtby for the Caps in Colorado

No Kuznetsov, no Oshie and no Holtby for the Caps in Colorado

The Capitals are going to be a bit shorthanded when they take on the Colorado Avalanche on Friday in Denver (9 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Washington Plus). Friday’s game will be exactly one year to the date since the Caps last played in Colorado, a 6-2 loss just two days after a 6-3 loss in Nashville. Those two games were the low point of the entire 2017-18 season forcing the Caps to rally in their return home.

Here are three things to watch as the Caps hope for a better result this year in Denver:

Injury adjustments

Prior to Friday’s morning skate, the team announced that Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Braden Holtby will all be out due to upper-body injuries. Holtby suffered an injury the morning of Wednesday’s game in Winnipeg while both Kuznetsov and Oshie were injured off of questionable hits from the Jets during the game.

There is at least some good news as defenseman Michal Kempny, who missed Wednesday’s game due to illness, is back in.

With all the injuries and the players coming and going, here’s a look at what the lines looked like at morning skate, per Isabelle Khurshudyan:

Alex Ovechkin – Lars Eller – Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana – Nicklas Backstrom – Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson – Travis Boyd – Brett Connolly
Dmitrij Jaskin – Nic Dowd – Devante Smith-Pelly

Michal Kempny – Matt Niskanen
Dmitry Orlov – John Carlson
Christian Djoos – Madison Bowey

Obviously a very different look offensively than what we have seen to this point.

Injuries are never good, but the silver lining is seeing who steps up when they are presented with an opportunity. Burakovsky is someone who desperately needs to break out and he is playing on a second line with a lot of skill. Boyd moving up to the third line is a player to watch as well.

Ilya Samsonov will be the backup goalie

With Holtby out, Pheonix Copley will make his third consecutive start. But the Caps won’t be using an emergency backup this time as the team has recalled star prospect Samsonov from the Hershey Bears and he was on the ice Friday morning in Denver. In a corresponding move, Jonas Siegenthaler was reassigned to Hershey, but that may be just a paper move and he will most likely stay with the team for the remainder of the road trip.

In eight appearances in Hershey this season, Samsonov has registered a 3.73 GAA and .875 save percentage. Those are not great numbers by any means, but both he and the team have improved drastically since the start of the season.

It is, of course, unlikely that Samsonov will play, but there is at least a chance of Samsonov getting into his first NHL game.

Philipp Grubauer will start for the Avalanche

Ironically enough, Colorado will have two goalies with more Capitals experience than the Caps will on Friday with Grubauer and Semyon Varlamov.

On Friday, it will be Grubauer who gets the nod against his former team and the team in which he helped win a Stanley Cup last season.

“Looking down, yeah it’s going to be weird seeing guys on the other end, but then once the puck drops it’s all about business,” Grubauer told reporters on Friday.

Grubauer has had a rough start with his new team, posting a 3.55 GAA and .893 save percentage, but despite that he also has managed a 3-1-1 record. That's a stark contrast to his start last year in which he posted incredible numbers but struggled to get into the win column early in the season.

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