- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

Just as the surging Washington Capitals crept closer to a healthy roster, there are more injuries to overcome.

Defenseman Tom Poti and forward Alexander Semin left the Caps’ 6-3 win Tuesday against Ottawa with injuries. Neither practiced yesterday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, and the news afterward was mixed. Poti did not accompany the team on the flight to Boston because of an upper body injury, while coach Bruce Boudreau said he expects Semin to play tonight against the Bruins despite a tailbone injury.

Washington, with a four-game point streak (3-0-1) and back-to-back wins against the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators, is in the midst of arguably its best stretch of hockey this season.

“Everybody goes through it. Everybody has injuries,” goaltender Olie Kolzig said. “It is all about guys stepping up their game and filling in for other guys who are hurt. … That’s what we need to do — not worry about who is out of the lineup but worry about who is in and what they can do.”

Poti, who missed six games earlier this season with a strained groin, leads the team in ice time at just short of 25 minutes a game. After signing a four-year, $14 million contract July 1, Poti leads the Caps’ defense corps with 12 assists and has been a key cog in the team’s penalty-killing unit, but he has yet to register his first goal in a Washington uniform.

Semin is finally starting to flash the sublime skill that allowed him to rack up 38 goals last season, his second in the NHL. The 23-year-old Semin sprained his ankle in the preseason and aggravated the injury three times earlier this season, but he has four goals in the past seven games.

Quintin Laing missed the New Year’s Day matinee against the Senators with a sore leg. He still was walking with a noticeable limp yesterday, but Laing, a 28-year-old minor league journeyman turned shot blocker/spark plug for the Caps, deemed himself ready to go against the Bruins.

Captain Chris Clark, who has missed the past 15 games with a groin injury, has resumed skating but is not close to returning. Clark also missed eight games earlier this season after needing several dozen stitches to repair his ear, which was damaged by an Alex Ovechkin slap shot.

“Injuries are injuries — it is opportunities for someone else,” Boudreau said. “To everything is the Wally Pipp syndrome. Look at Quintin Laing. He came in only due to an injury, and now he’s sort of manufactured his way into, ‘Boy, we can’t play without him.’ ”

Mike Green, All-Star?

With two goals and an assist Tuesday, Mike Green is tied with Montreal’s Andrei Markov for the NHL lead in goals by a defenseman with 10. His 21 points tie him for 10th among Eastern Conference rearguards.

Alex Ovechkin is certain to be named to the Eastern Conference team for the NHL All-Star Game later this month in Atlanta, but has Green become a dark horse candidate to join him?

“I don’t even know if he is a dark horse; I think he could be going there,” defense partner Shaone Morrisonn said. “He’s got my vote. He’s a spectacular player — a great offensive player and fun to watch. I usually see him up in the offensive zone, and I am alone on the back end, but that’s how it has worked, and it has worked great.”

Green’s numbers have soared since Boudreau was named coach on Thanksgiving Day. The 22-year-old Green has seven goals, seven assists and is a plus-seven in 19 games with Boudreau in charge. His season ice-time average is 20:53, but Green’s playing time has soared since Dec. 1. He has logged more than 21 minutes in 17 straight games, including more than 30 on two occasions.

“When we play a team — any team in the league — and they are doing their prescouting, they are talking about Mike Green at some point,” Boudreau said. “Whether it be his power play, his skating or his ability to rush the puck, he’s getting better every game.”

Today’s game

WASHINGTON CAPITALS AT BOSTON BRUINS

When: 7 p.m.

Where: TD Banknorth Garden, Boston

TV/radio: CSN, AM-1500, FM-107.7

Goalies: Capitals ” Olie Kolzig (10-15-2, 2.96). Bruins ” Tim Thomas (11-9-3, 2.34).

Injuries: Capitals ” Out: RW Chris Clark (groin), D Tom Poti (upper body), RW Eric Fehr (back/hip). Probable: RW Alexander Semin (tailbone), LW Quintin Laing (bruised leg). Bruins ” Out: C Patrice Bergeron (concussion), G Manny Fernandez (knee surgery), RW Glen Murray (hip flexor), D Aaron Ward (broken foot), D Andrew Alberts (concussion), C Alexei Zhamnov (ankle).

Notes: The Bruins had lost six games in a row before defeating Atlanta 5-2 on Monday. Boston had moved up as far as fourth in the Eastern Conference standings but is now in a three-way tie for seventh, just five points in front of the Caps. Washington is 10-5-4 with coach Bruce Boudreau in charge. Alex Ovechkin has 30 goals and 50 points, which was seventh in the league before last night’s games but only three out of a four-way tie for second behind Tampa Bay”s Vincent Lecavalier. With Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg hurting, Ovechkin has widened his lead in shots on goal to 30 with 215. The Caps are 1-2-5 against the Bruins since the lockout.

Corey Masisak

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