- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bruce Boudreau might end up with an extra benefit from his team’s roster decisions - dinner with a hockey legend.

The Washington Capitals reduced their roster by four players Monday - essentially setting the squad for opening night Thursday in Boston. Defenseman Karl Alzner and three forwards - Alexandre Giroux, Keith Aucoin and Brandon Sugden - were cut. Giroux and Aucoin must clear waivers at noon Tuesday to join Alzner and Sugden with Hershey of the American Hockey League.

Bad news for those four meant great news for three other bubble candidates - forwards Chris Bourque and Quintin Laing and defenseman Tyler Sloan. All three were told they will be making the trip to Boston.

Bourque said he was avoiding Boudreau on Monday morning because he feared he too would be packing his equipment in a bag and driving to Hershey. Instead, Boudreau offered him another option.

“I asked him if he wants to have dinner with his dad Wednesday night,” Boudreau said.

Bourque’s father, Ray, has his No. 77 in the rafters at TD Banknorth Garden and lives in the area. While he has played there in college and in an exhibition game, this will be Chris Bourque’s first real NHL game in his hometown building.

The Caps are now down to 26 players in camp, with Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr expected to begin the season on injured reserve and injured goaltender Michal Neuvirth likely to be assigned to Hershey in the next two days. That leaves a resolution to the Michael Nylander saga (which Boudreau hinted might be coming Tuesday or Wednesday) as the final potential tweak to the roster.

Keeping Sloan means the Caps will have eight defensemen on the roster if no other move is made. Boudreau said Sloan “was the best defensemen in camp” and couldn’t justify cutting him.

“I don’t really know about long term, but I survived this round, and I am happy to be here and that’s all that matters,” Sloan said. “When you look at the guys we had here, the 10, 11 guys… they are all NHL-capable defensemen. I feel very fortunate, and I’m proud of myself for accepting the challenge and accomplishing my goal.”

For Laing, this is his 10th season as a professional, and it will be the first time he starts the season on an NHL roster. Laing had a consistent preseason, and the Caps will be counting on him to provide energy, help with killing penalties and block shots.

“It is a really satisfying feeling,” Laing said. “It has been a lot of years trying, and to make it out of camp is a nice goal to achieve at this point in the season.”

Fehr cleared

Fehr was cleared Sunday for contact in practice, and he went through the entire workout Monday for the first time in training camp. Fehr had surgery on both shoulders this summer and had to wait four months after the procedures before trying to test them and seek clearance.

Fehr has been working out away from the rink and skating with the team during camp. Boudreau said he thinks it will be two weeks before Fehr is ready to play in a game.

Top lines set?

Giroux skated on the team’s second line in four preseason games, but Brooks Laich was in his place in the final exhibition contest Sunday, and it appears that is how the Caps will start the season. It has been a given that Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom will be on the top line with either Mike Knuble or Alexander Semin and that Brendan Morrison would center the second unit with one of those two, but the left wing remained in question.

“I think Brooks and Alex [Semin] are pretty much locked into there,” Boudreau said of the possibility of Bourque earning second-line duty. “I don’t think anybody was going to come in and take those spots.”

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