- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 21, 2009

TAMPA, Fla. | Lost in all the attention Alex Ovechkin received for scoring his 50th goal Thursday night and the subsequent celebration was the performance of another young Russian for the Washington Capitals.

For the third time this season, the Caps called on 20-year-old goaltender Simeon Varlamov to start for them. And for the third time, Varlamov delivered. He turned aside 26 of 28 shots, improving to 3-0-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage.

“He was good, and it is important to put young goalies in positions that they may succeed in and not overwork them right off the bat,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We’ll pick and choose where we’re going to play him. I’m sure he’ll play again before the season’s out.”

Added Varlamov through an interpreter: “I feel fine. I started three games, and I have won three games. I think that is the way it is supposed to be. I try to win every game.”


Varlamov has been touted as the franchise’s co-goaltender of the future since he and Michal Neuvirth were drafted in 2006. When healthy this season, Varlamov has done nothing to quell the enthusiasm about his potential.

“I like the way he plays his position. He has speed and quickness,” starting goalie Jose Theodore said. “I always say a good goalie is going to make a hard save look easy, and that’s what I try to do. That’s what he does.”

In the locker room before Thursday’s game, Theodore had a long chat with Varlamov, who speaks English but not comfortably enough to forsake an interpreter. Theodore said he remembered his younger days in the NHL and wanted to emphasize not getting too anxious to Varlamov.

Staying healthy has been an issue for Varlamov, who recently missed six weeks with a knee injury. He has great numbers with both the Caps and the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears, with whom he is 18-6-1, but injuries have kept him from gaining valuable experience.

“It was tough dealing with the injuries,” Varlamov said. “I want to play, and by missing six weeks the hunger for playing was so big, it was a very tough time. You can lose a lot in your shape and the way you play over that time. It wasn’t easy at all.”

Laing done for season

Quintin Laing’s return to the NHL lasted only one game. Laing suffered a torn spleen Thursday night and was taken to an intensive care unit at a local hospital for supervision. Boudreau said he was told the normal recovery time is three to four months, so Laing’s season is over.

“He said, ‘My abs hurt,’ and [head trainer Greg Smith] said, ‘That’s not your abs,’ ” Boudreau said.

Laing has been a minor league journeyman most of his career, but he played 39 games for the Caps last season. He became a fan favorite for his willingness to sacrifice his body to block shots, but Thursday was the first time this season he had been recalled.

“I feel sick about it because he’s been waiting all year to get recalled,” Boudreau said. “He loved it, and I think the fans in Washington love the way he plays.”

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