- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2011

This season, when the Washington Capitals have had rough games, some fans have been quick to point to the enigmatic Russian winger with minimal production as someone who should be held accountable. But Alexander Semin largely hasn’t been bad, according to coach Bruce Boudreau, who has cited his hard work.

Semin on Thursday agreed with that notion of strong play away from the puck but made it clear he would like to break out of an early scoring slump that he called a “dark period.”

“Last year I started really well, and then the whole thing went [wrong],” Semin said through interpreter Igor Kleyner. “I’m hoping maybe the bad part of the season is over for this season and the good part is just about to begin.”

Semin showed a bit of a spark Tuesday against the Dallas Stars, scoring on a snappy one-timer while wide open in the slot. He has three goals and five assists to go along with a minus-1 rating.

Boudreau sees signs that Semin is poised to go on an offensive run despite some struggles.

“There’s no reason to think that Alexander Semin has all of a sudden become a bad hockey player,” the Caps’ coach said. “He skates too well; he handles the puck too well; he shoots too well. He’s going to break out.”

Penalties again have plagued Semin’s season. He leads Washington with nine minor penalties, the most recent of which earned him a seat on the bench for much of the third period against Dallas. Boudreau chided Semin in his postgame comments for taking too many penalties.

“I’m really not sure what’s going on with penalties. I’m kind of puzzled myself,” Semin said. “I don’t know for sure if all of those penalties were really penalties or not, but it is what it is, and I’m just going to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Semin is getting paid $6.7 million on a one-year deal to score, but he’s a capable player even without big-time numbers, as long as the penalties don’t define him. For guys counted on to score, trying to play an all-around game is a way to compensate.

“It’s hard when you don’t get goals. You just have to keep working hard,” forward Mathieu Perreault said. “He’s such a good player — we all know he can score a lot of goals in this league, so it’s just a matter of keep working hard and do the right things and they’re going to come.”

For long stretches, Semin has done those things. He has been hustling to loose pucks and winning battles that have made him an effective player away from the puck.

That trend earned praise from Boudreau earlier this week, and it’s something Semin hopes to build on while also adding offense.

“The coach has told me that aside from scoring he has been happy with my game this year, especially with the way I’ve played on the defense,” Semin said. “Scoring is just one component of my game, and hopefully it will return.”

With the Caps seeking to bust out of a recent funk, the sooner the better.

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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