SYOSSET, N.Y. | When Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux play together in the American Hockey League, they make magic happen.
Afforded a rare opportunity Thursday night to skate together in the NHL with the Washington Capitals, the duo displayed some of their artistic ability against the Atlanta Thrashers.
Aucoin brought the puck into the offensive zone and faked a slap shot near the left faceoff circle - though both he and Giroux knew he never intended to shoot. Instead, Aucoin sent a pass across to Giroux, who swept a shot past Ondrej Pavelec for Washington’s second goal in a 5-4 victory.
“He’s always on his one-timer side - that’s something I’ve learned from playing with him for over a year,” Aucoin said. “As soon as I wound up, I saw him and I saw his stick wound up like he always does. It actually wasn’t a good pass for a one-timer, but he was able to get a quick shot off anyway. It is something we have tried a lot before.”
Added Giroux: “We’ve scored so many goals together in Hershey just like that. Before it was [Graham] Mink going to the net, and [Thursday] night it was [Chris Clark] going to the net to open it up. Keith knows I am a shooter, so I was ready for it. I knew he was going to pass.”
Last season, Aucoin and Giroux terrorized the AHL, finishing No. 1 and 2 in the scoring race. Giroux had 60 goals and 97 points in the regular season, and Aucoin ended up with 25 goals and 96 points. Not only did Giroux end up with 21 more goals than any other player in the league, Mink finished tied for seventh with 32 markers.
With Alexander Semin and Boyd Gordon out of the lineup Thursday, the Caps needed two forwards from Hershey. Aucoin and Giroux got the nod.
“Before the game, we got together and said, ‘Hey, let’s just do what we do and have a good time,’ ” Aucoin said. “I thought we did that. You have to do that when you’re called upon. They’ve been looking for more scoring from guys besides the top two lines, and it was fun to contribute.”
Aucoin and Giroux each played 12 games for the Caps last season but saw time on the same line extensively in only one game - a 3-1 loss to Carolina in December. In total, they spent a little more than eight minutes on the ice together in the NHL last season - about 6 percent of their total ice time.
They were on the ice together for only about five minutes Thursday, but their line produced two goals. The Thrashers also scored on the line once.
“It was awesome,” Giroux said. “When they told us we were playing together, I think we were really happy. I think it takes a lot of the pressure [off]. We don’t try to please our linemates. We knew where we are. And [Clark] is a veteran guy, and we know where he is. I think it was good for us to play together.”
Notes - Coach Bruce Boudreau said he doesn’t expect his injured trio of skaters (Semin, Gordon and John Erskine) to play Saturday night at the New York Islanders. Semin skated with Tomas Fleischmann on Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex; Boudreau had said there was a chance the wing might join the team on Long Island after not traveling to Atlanta. …
Boudreau said goalie Jose Theodore will start against the Islanders. Semyon Varlamov had started the two contests since Oct. 15, when back trouble forced Theodore out of a game against San Jose.
By James A. Lyons
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