- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Washington Capitals have the worst home record in the Eastern Conference.

Goaltender Olie Kolzig hopes the Caps’ next five opponents focus on that 8-10-1 mark as much as possible.

“Teams are probably coming into our building and going, ‘Oh, they are under .500. This might be an opportunity for us to win,’ ” Kolzig said. “We are playing better, but still teams look your overall home record and say, ‘They’re not playing that well at home.’ ”

Washington got off to a horrible start at Verizon Center this season, but it boasts a 6-3-1 mark at home during coach Bruce Boudreau’s tenure.

Beginning tonight when they play host to the Colorado Avalanche, the Caps will enjoy their longest homestand of the season — five games that stretch into next weekend.

Two of them are against Western Conference teams on the fringes of the playoff race (Colorado and Edmonton), two are against top-three road teams from the Eastern Conference (Ottawa and Philadelphia) and one is the lone divisional game of the month (Florida).

While the Caps have been successful under Boudreau, they remain in 14th place in the conference, a position where they need every two points they can find.

“[We need] five out of five — I don’t sit there and go, ‘Oh we won four in a row. We can afford to lose this one.’ ” Kolzig said. “We have to be ready for every game, but having said that, we can go 5-0. That is our objective, and it has to be because of the way we started earlier in the year.”

Added Boudreau: “I told the guys you have to make hay when the sun shines. This is an opportunity for us. Too many times in sports people say, ‘Oh you just went through toughness and now you’re at home. This should be easy.’ And you let up, and the negative stuff happens.”

Notes — General manager George McPhee said former coach Glen Hanlon will start to do some pro scouting for the organization soon. Hanlon, who was fired Thanksgiving Day, is still under contract with the team. …

The NHL All-Star Game starters were announced yesterday, and Alex Ovechkin did not make the cut. He finished fifth among Eastern Conference forwards.

Today’s game

COLORADO AVALANCHE AT WASHINGTON CAPITALS

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Verizon Center

TV/Radio: CSN, FM-107.7, AM-1500, AM-820

Goalies: Avalanche — Peter Budaj (14-8-2, 2.63) or Jose Theodore (8-8-1, 2.73). Capitals — Olie Kolzig (14-16-4, 3.02).

Avalanche — Out: C Joe Sakic (hernia surgery), LW Ryan Smyth (broken ankle), C Tyler Arnason (wrist), D Kurt Sauer (neck). Capitals — Out: RW Chris Clark (strained groin), RW Eric Fehr (back/hip). Doubtful: D Tom Poti (upper body), D Brian Pothier (head), G Brent Johnson (sprained knee).

Outlook: Michael Nylander and Matt Pettinger returned to practice yesterday, and both deemed themselves ready to play. Pettinger still could be the odd man out among the forwards. … Tom Poti and Brian Pothier didn’t skate and likely won’t play. Steve Eminger would play in back-to-back games for the first time this season if they don’t suit up. … The Caps play host to the Avalanche for the first time in almost four years. Colorado is missing its most expensive players in Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth but remains in eighth place in the Western Conference. The Avalanche missed the playoffs last season for the first time since moving to Denver.

Corey Masisak

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