The Caps are just finishing up the morning skate here in Denver at Pepsi Center. Milan Jurcina and Tyler Sloan will be the healthy scratches on defense, and Jose Theodore will start in this building for the first time since playing here for the Avalanche. Karl Alzner, who was called up yesterday, will replace Jurcina in the lineup.
This will also be the NHL debut for Kyle Wilson, who turns 25 today as well. Boudreau did hint at the possibility of rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth getting another start this weekend when the team plays back-to-back games in Vancouver and Edmonton. Boudreau said he wanted Neuvirth to get “three solid practices in” before his next start (which could mean Friday or Saturday) to help re-adjust to reacting to NHL shots. Boudreau said he felt Neuvirth was a little late reacting in Toronto, like he was still facing AHL shots.
The forward lines will likely be the same as yesterday’s practice:
Bruce Boudreau said he played one game in Denver in his career, and he said the altitude definitely had an effect on his play. He will be preaching short shifts tonight, saying that he will probably be more willing to change lines on whistles when he might have otherwise left that unit on the ice. “By the third period, it was tiring,” Boudreau said. “Maybe I was out of shape because I had just been called up, but I remember that it was tough to play here.”
This is a pretty big game for the Caps, though it didn’t look that way at the beginning of the season. Colorado is one of the biggest surprises in the league this season, competing at the top of the Western Conference standings when most, if not all, preseason pundits had them pegged for near the bottom of the league.
“Sometimes that is the inspiration that makes you a better team,” Boudreau said. “They work so hard and the new coach knows the guys who came from Lake Erie. They have confidence in him and he has confidence in them. “Now all of a sudden you’ve got a work ethic where you are surprising a few teams early and you’re getting great goaltending and you start believing in yourself and that’s where I think they’re at.”
Craig Anderson in net has been a huge boon for the Avalanche. The other big additions are a pair of rookies — centers Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reily. Both were 2009 draft picks. It isn’t a surprise that Duchene (No. 3 overall) is here, but O’Reily was a second-round pick and made the jump straight to the big leauges. Boudreau lauded both of them for their skating ability, but also their responsible play.
“Yeah, and I don’t like it,” Boudreau said of their ability to play defense as well. “Two 18-year-old guys going against us and they’re both fabulous defensively. You wouldn’t have thunk that two 18-year-olds at argubly the second-most important position on the team behind the goaltender and they’re doing a wonderful, wonderful job.”