NEW YORK | During the final month of the regular season, Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter put Alexander Semin on the fourth line, and it appeared uncertain if he would play there or be a healthy scratch.
Of course Semin will play in Game 2 at the New York Rangers on Monday night, barring injury, but he got demoted for Sunday’s practice.
Semin skated on the fourth line with Mike Knuble and Keith Aucoin at the Garden. The Russian winger had a brutal Game 1, committing two stick penalties and finishing with a minus-1 rating.
Asked if he was sending a message, Hunter’s body language said one thing while his answer said another.
“No, just mixing the lines up,” he said.
Asked to evaluate Semin’s game, penalties and all, Hunter pointed to Ryan Callahan shoving Semin before the Caps winger took his slashing penalty.
“The one, he went for the puck and he hit a skate. The other one, both of them should’ve went. It was a cross-check. Originally started, if you watch the replay, the guy cross-checked him first. But you can’t retaliate,” Hunter said. “You just can’t retaliate. The ref, he called one. He could’ve easily called two. But that’s the way its’ go. It’s up to their call and they get the final say on penalties.”
If Semin does start Game 2 on the fourth line, Hunter still anticipates him chipping in with offense.
“He hit the cross bar on the power play. He scored a couple power-play goals in the Boston series,” the Caps’ coach said. “We expect him to get the power play going.”
As far as the lack of discipline, something that haunted Semin’s game earlier in the regular season, Hunter pointed out that bad penalties can’t happen this time of year.
“You just can’t do it. It’s up to the referees. It’s his call,” Hunter said. “It’s one of those things that he did get cross-checked. But that’s the way hockey is, and you have to be smart on the ice.”
The defensive pairings got a switch, too, as Jeff Schultz skated with Dennis Wideman. John Erskine was with Wideman in Game 1. Hunter would not say which defenseman would play in Game 2.
Here are lines and combinations:
Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Joel Ward
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Alexander Semin
Extras: Mathieu Perreault - Mattias Sjogren - Jeff Halpern
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman
John Erskine - Dmitry Orlov