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If the Capitals had acquired Pronger and given him anything close to the Flyers’ seven-year, $35 million deal, it would have cost them Semyon Varlamov or Michal Neuvirth, Carlson or Alzner, two future picks and most likely Alexander Semin. And there would have been no money to sign Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison.

That McPhee didn’t pursue Pronger or free agent defensemen Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin was an endorsement to the holdover group and especially the up-and-coming players.

And really, the Capitals should be better defensively because they expect to get Poti and Pothier for the entire season. Poti was limited to 52 games because of groin problems.

“I feel I can skate 100 times better than I did last year,” Poti said. Pothier returned late in the year from missing more than a year with post-concussion symptoms.

The young defensemen have another year of experience and so do the forwards, who know they have to do their part.

“It was something we tried to address all season long, but it’s tough,” Laich said. “Players instinctively want to play offense. It’s much more fun to score goals than prevent goals. But that’s part of our maturity. It’s hard when you have so much ability and are so young and all you do is want to score goals. The top teams, their players are always backchecking.”

Where the Capitals’ blueliners don’t have a problem is producing offense. Green led the way with 31 goals despite missing 14 games. He should benefit from Pothier and Poti playing every night. They should be given more time on the power play because they make good decisions and don’t just lug the puck up ice.

Pothier and Poti, given the opportunity on the power play - which they should - would take some pressure off Green.

“Mike’s obviously a dynamic player and he’ll get his point and goals, but on the last 30 seconds of a power play or on back-to-back power plays, Tom and I can go in and relieve Mike and give him a bit of a rest,” Pothier said.

Green will score goals, and the Capitals expect to lower their GAA. So no Pronger, no problem?

“Guys are healthy, and we can definitely be a lot better in our zone,” Morrisonn said. “Our job is to get it to [the offensive stars], and that’s the key to our team.”