- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 25, 2011

With just one spot up for grabs on the Washington Capitals roster, the competition for the third-line center position has been a focus of training camp. Cody Eakin, Mattias Sjogren, Mathieu Perreault Christian Hanson, Ryan Potulny and Chris Bourque spent the first week of camp battling each day.

On Sunday, the team took a step by sending Hanson and Potulny to the Hershey Bears, reducing the candidates to four. But coach Bruce Boudreau hasn’t seen a frontrunner emerge.

“Not after three games,” he said. “We’re just waiting for somebody to say, ‘It's mine and somebody take it away from me.’ It's out there, guys. Know it’s out there.”

Hanson, who offered a big body with some NHL experience, and Potulny, who has some scoring touch, obviously didn’t fit into the Caps’ plans right away. But the four guys still hanging around were happy to survive this round of cuts.

“It doesn’t hurt,” Eakin said. “The more time the better to get comfortable, and the more time every day kind of feeling better and better. It's nice to be kept around for longer.”

That kind of confidence was prevalent Sunday, even as all four players weren’t exactly surprised they were still around.

“I didn’t expect to get sent down,” Perreault said. “My goal is to make the team, so I would’ve been very disappointed if I would’ve been sent down by now.”

Boudreau has been waiting for someone to stake a claim to the job, even though he has been hesitant to spell out exactly what he and the coaching staff are looking for out of the third-line center.

Sjogren is the big, physical guy with professional experience overseas. Eakin is the gritty, two-way player with success at the major junior level in Canada. Perreault and Bourque are both undersized forwards, but they know the Caps and hope the ability to play multiple positions will help.

“That always helps when you can be versatile like that,” Bourque said. “I’m willing to battle and play any position they need filled.”

Boudreau said each player will get into at least three of the final four preseason games (Monday vs. Columbus, Wednesday at Nashville, Friday vs. Buffalo and Sunday vs. Chicago), so there will be opportunities for one to stand out.

No one doing that so far isn’t good news for the Caps, but Boudreau is also willing to consider the positives.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe they’re all at the same level because they’re all good.”