Jason Chimera wasn't the happiest guy in the world Tuesday when talking to reporters about being a healthy scratch for the Capitals. Those emotions turned around Thursday as he knew he was back in the lineup against his former team, and the speedy winger said he'd like to perform well against the Blue Jackets.
It turned out to be a prophetic message, as Chimera scored the game-winner for the Caps in overtime to finish off the 4-3 victory at Verizon Center. Chimera said there was motivation from facing Columbus and from being a candidate to sit out games.
"It's especially nice against your old team, so it's a good night," he said. "When you're producing, it's hard to take you out of the lineup, that's for sure."
Coach Bruce Boudreau, who suggested earlier in the day that he could rotate forwards with 13 healthy guys and 12 spots, could have more tough decisions to make after this one. Chimera was one of the better players on the ice during his 11-plus minutes Thursday night and added an early assist to go along with his first goal since Feb. 4.
"I don't think that the facing the former team – maybe the fact that he sat out last game had a little bit more to do with it than facing Columbus," Boudreau said.
Team-wide, the victory – which got the Caps over the 100-point mark for the second straight season – was overshadowed by news that Dennis Wideman could be out indefinitely with leg hematoma. Players confirmed a TSN report that the defenseman was hospitalized and could be out a long time.
"I think we're all kinda surprised what kind of injury it turned into," winger Mike Knuble said. "He could be gone a couple weeks; he could be gone a lot longer."
Officially, the Caps are still listing Wideman as "week-to-week." But in this game, they suffered yet another injury and had to play with five defensemen for the majority of the second and third periods.
John Erskine left the game after a 1 minute, 3 second shift early in the second. The defenseman was involved in a first-period fight, but Boudreau said Erskine did not injure his hand in that tussle with the Blue Jackets' Jared Boll.
"He's day to day," Boudreau said. "He's fine; it was precautionary with him."
Wideman is definitely out for Saturday's game against the Sabres and could be out much longer. TSN's Bob McKenzie, who first reported the hospitalization and blood contusion, said Wideman could be out indefinitely, and players appeared to confirm that.
The Caps realize they need to adjust to life without him.
"That's part of the game," center Jason Arnott said. "You're gonna lose guys with injuries, and you hope and cross your fingers that they come back real quick. It just means other guys have to step up, especially on the back end."
With Erskine's injury Thursday night, the Caps had the challenge of being short on the blue line and managed to leave Verizon Center with two valuable points, inching closer to the Flyers, who lost to the Thrashers. Tyler Sloan was pressed into action with Wideman's absence, and he and all the other defensemen had to pick up minutes against the Blue Jackets.
Moving forward, Erskine's health could become a major factor in the defensive puzzle with the Caps, as Tom Poti (groin) and Mike Green (concussion) remain out. Boudreau was hopeful Green could practice Friday, but he's thankful for one thing with his banged-up blue line.
"It's just a good job that we've got good depth," he said.
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