Karl Alzner played junior hockey with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League when Jarome Iginla was starring for the Flames. The Washington Capitals defenseman saw brilliant play often and got to know Iginla well during informal skates last fall during the NHL lockout.
So when Alzner saw that Iginla had been traded to the arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins, he was thrilled.
"You want to see a guy like that succeed," Alzner said Thursday. "It's nice to see him go to a good team like Pittsburgh. I hope that they finish second in the Eastern Conference next to us. If we don't win, I'd like to see them win."
Pittsburgh acquiring Iginla from the Flames, left wing Brenden Morrow from the Dallas Stars and defenseman Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks seemed like an embarrassingly strong haul for a team already atop the East and riding a winning streak.
"They're obviously making some moves," Caps coach Adam Oates said. "Maybe they're not happy with their lineup, deep down. Who knows?"
After getting reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin back Thursday night, the Penguins are clear front-runners to reach the Stanley Cup Final, even in a conference that has the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. And they only surrendered draft picks and mid- and low-level prospects to make three trades to go for it now.
"They've got a pretty deep team over there with a lot of good players," Caps right wing Troy Brouwer said. "To not give up an actual roster player means that they're making a push for it, as everyone can see, to try and win. I guess they're going to worry about later, later."
Brouwer conceded that the Penguins are going to be a very tough team to play against. The Caps went 0-3 in their meetings and are done seeing them, unless they make the playoffs as the No. 8 seed to setup a playoff series against Pittsburgh.
That would give Alzner the unenviable task of trying to stop Iginla.
"I grew up watching the guy and idolizing him, just seeing how dynamic he was. He's not your typical All-Star," Alzner said. "He's not just out there all flashy. He's so gritty and he likes to throw the mitts every now and then. He's a great player to watch play, and I've had the pleasure of watching him a lot more than a lot of people have."
Witnessing Iginla put up 525 goals and 570 assists had Alzner in awe. Sitting next to the ex-Flames captain before and after lockout practices earned more personal respect.
Alzner recalled Iginla talking with Flames players Alex Tanguay and Mark Giordano in the locker room and immediately turning to him like he had been in the conversation all along.
"He makes you feel like you're one of the guys, and that's something that's important," Alzner said. "That's hard to do to be that approachable and make people feel at-ease. It's no secret why he's been talked as highly as he's been talked about."
The day after RDS reported that Mike Ribeiro turned down a three-year, $14 million contract offer from the Caps, the impending unrestricted free agent center said he's not distracted by the ongoing talks as the April 3 trade deadline approaches.
"I can put things in different places at the right time," Ribeiro said. "I don't think about it before the game or during the next few days or so. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. So we'll see what this week brings us and then we'll go from there."
Ribeiro said he'd be "comfortable" staying with the Caps, but he made clear earlier in the week that he'd prefer a "long-term" deal. Long term to the 33-year-old means four or five years.
Ribeiro is making $5 million in the final season of a five-year contract, and even with the salary cap going down it would be hard to expect Washington's leading scorer to take a pay cut.
John Erskine (upper-body injury) did not participate in practice Thursday, though Oates said the defenseman was just resting and had not suffered a setback. ... Neither Tomas Kundratek (right knee) nor Tom Poti (back) is quite ready to go, though the Caps will have roster decisions to make when one is able to return. ... Eric Fehr (upper body) did not practice again, and Oates said the right wing is "a ways away" from playing.
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