- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 7, 2009

While Alex Ovechkin tries to chase down Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for the NHL scoring title, Keith Aucoin only has been able to watch good friend Alexandre Giroux catch up to him in that category in the American Hockey League.

Aucoin and Giroux are tied with 94 points each with three games remaining for the Hershey Bears. But the diminutive Aucoin has been busy racking up points for the Washington Capitals and making a bid to remain with the big club as the postseason approaches.

“Me and [Giroux] are really good friends - I talk to him after every game down there and up here,” Aucoin said. “We text each other all the time, and I hope for the best for him. I love playing with that guy, and I hope he wins the scoring title - he deserves it.”

After being held scoreless in the first game since he was recalled last month, Aucoin has collected five points in the team's past five games. Regardless of his ice time or linemates, Aucoin has produced, including a power-play goal and an assist Sunday against Atlanta.

He has spent much of his promotion on the fourth line, but he seized his opportunity with the extra man against the Thrashers and banged home a one-timer from Ovechkin. Aucoin skated on a line with Eric Staal at times with the Carolina Hurricanes, but he hasn't had many chances to play with one of the top players in the world.

“I'm going to have to get on the scoresheet,” he said. “I'll make sure to get that one, but he did all the work. I just had to put it in. It was a big goal at a big time.”

Aucoin is with the Caps because Donald Brashear has missed nine games because of a sprained knee and Boyd Gordon has been absent for seven because of a broken finger. Whether he remains with the Caps once either or both of those players are ready to return remains to be determined.

Aucoin and Brashear left for Atlanta with the team Monday as the Caps embarked on a season-ending, three-game road swing. If Brashear is ready to play at some point during the trip, Aucoin could return to Hershey.

“He's played very well - very well - and we'll go day-by-day with him,” general manager George McPhee said.

The Caps also could keep Aucoin and move forward with 13 healthy forwards (or 14 once Gordon is ready). If they choose that course of action, the Caps have to decide whether Aucoin deserves to play in place of another healthy forward or whether keeping Aucoin as an insurance policy is worth what it would cost the Bears - more games without their top playmaker as they prepare for a run at the Calder Cup.

“They'd be upset that they didn't have their best player,” said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, the former coach at Hershey. “They also realize very much so what is going on with us. I think the relationship between [Hershey GM Doug Yingst] and George is great and the relationship between me, Doug and [coach Bob Woods] is great. Through communication, I hope we find the right thing to do.”

There is also a possibility that captain Chris Clark will be back with the team should the Caps advance past the first round of the playoffs, which could further complicate matters for Aucoin.

“It is out of my hands,” he said. “The only thing I can do is go out there every shift and work hard. And if they need me here, I'll be here and I'll do whatever they want me to do.”

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