- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Capitals are just like you in one big way: When they go home from games, they fire up the computer and check out the scores from the rest of the NHL.

For fans, the scoreboard-watching process goes on during games, too, but the men most affected by results elsewhere around the league still pay attention when their work is done for the night. For the Caps, it meant taking another glance at the standings Thursday night after Jason Chimera’s overtime goal gave them a 4-3 win over the Blue Jackets.

Defenseman Karl Alzner admitted checking on scores around the league has become part of his daily routine.

“I don’t do a lot of itduring the season, but toward the end of the season I do,” Alzner said. “When it comes down to who you’re playing in playoffs and who your potential matchups are, and also to check to see who’s kind of on a high and who’s struggling a little bit.”

The Caps have a lot to watch for. They could reasonably face the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres or even possibly the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs, which start April 13. And as coach Bruce Boudreau has pointed out many times, Washington has a lot to play for.

“Nothing’s set in stone in any team right now,” Boudreau said. “There’s so many combinations that can happen, and it’s forcing teams to win because nobody seems to want to lose.”

With only a few points making the difference between home ice throughout at least the first three rounds of the playoffs and a potential second-round matchup with the dangerous Pittsburgh Penguins or Tampa Bay Lightning, the Caps don’t want to miss a beat in the final games.

So it doesn’t matter to them whether it’s the Blue Jackets or the desperate Sabres (Saturday night’s opponent) - the Caps are focused on fixing their problems and rounding into form.

“We should be more worried about getting our game where we want it coming into the playoffs,” defenseman Jeff Schultz said. “You don’t want to be fine-tuning things right as playoffs start.”

That includes the power play, which the Caps will have to address as defenseman Dennis Wideman might be out for a while. After Thursday’s game, teammates confirmed a TSN report that Wideman has been hospitalized with a “significant leg hematoma.”

“He could be gone a couple weeks, he could be gone a lot longer,” Mike Knuble said.

Mike Green’s status moving forward is still an unknown, though Boudreau expressed “hope” that the All-Star defenseman could practice Friday.

For now, the Caps will go with Tyler Sloan as the sixth defenseman and try to hold their spot in the standings, if not overtake Philadelphia for first place.

And they’ll keep one eye on the rest of the league - in part because the races are entertaining.

“Every day they change,” Boudreau said. “With all the games that are going on tonight and all the important games and you wake up tomorrow morning and the standings will look a lot different again.”

While the Caps understand that their first-round opponent is out of their control, they’re trying to keep most of their focus on themselves.

“It’s so clustered right now, it’s hard to pinpoint who we’re going to play - the standings are so tight,” center Jason Arnott said. “No matter who it is, we just got to bring our best, no matter what.”



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