- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2009

Now comes the hardest part for guys like Chris Bourque and Tyler Sloan.

Bourque and Sloan are two of the players on the bubble for the Washington Capitals, who completed the preseason Sunday with a 4-3 matinee victory against the New York Rangers at Verizon Center.

“It is kind of a nerve-racking time, but I’ve been through it before,” Bourque said. “I can’t really avoid what is going to happen, so I need to keep [my phone] by my side whether it is good news or bad news.”

Because of injuries to Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr, there are likely two forward positions open for the opening-night roster, which must be set by Wednesday. The four candidates left in camp are Bourque, Alexandre Giroux, Quintin Laing and Keith Aucoin.

Bourque had missed the past three games because of a hit by Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta, but he had a strong return to the lineup against the Rangers. He tipped in a shot by Brian Pothier for his first goal and also showed off his versatility on the power play by playing both up front and on the point.

“I tried to do everything that I could to show that I belong here, and I think I did all right,” Bourque said. “I felt like I played pretty solid, but the rest is up to them. I can’t really do much more other than sit and wait.”

Laing had another strong effort, and his role with the Caps would be clear - killing penalties, blocking shots and providing energy on one of the bottom two lines. Giroux, who had one goal in four games, and Aucoin, who earned praise for his work Thursday in New York, were not in the lineup.

Sloan and Karl Alzner are trying to squeeze their way into a defensive corps that is already seven deep. Alzner doesn’t need to go through waivers to join Hershey, while Sloan would because of his NHL contract.

Despite taking two penalties, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said Sloan was one of his best defensemen Sunday - not the first time he’s made that statement this preseason.

“I think for the most part in the exhibition games I’ve played well,” Sloan said. “I think I was pretty consistent, and I’m happy. I’m happy with what I’ve done.”

Added Boudreau: “He keeps making the decisions difficult for us, which is what their job is.”

Semyon Varlamov had a shutout through two periods but then yielded three goals on 20 shots in the third period, including a goal for ex-Caps pugilist Donald Brashear.

If Michal Neuvirth can’t practice this week because of an injury, it will definitely be Varlamov and Jose Theodore splitting time in net for the Caps to start the season (and it was probably going to end up that, anyway).

Boudreau said he knows who is starting Thursday at Boston, then backtracked a little when pressed on the matter.

“I have a good inkling, but I haven’t talked to [goaltending coach Arturs Irbe] about it yet,” Boudreau said. “It doesn’t really matter who starts - it’s not like we’re going to run with one goalie for 80 games. The first two guys will probably play very even for the first 30 to 40 games, and then somebody is going to take over.”

• Corey Masisak can be reached at cmasisak@washingtontimes.com.

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