- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2012

Before Alex Ovechkin won Thursday night’s game in overtime for the Washington Capitals, Alexander Semin could have. He had a Grade-A chance in the slot and couldn’t bury it.

At Friday’s practice, Semin was skating on the fourth line along with Mike Knuble, Jeff Halpern and Joel Ward, while Keith Aucoin was on the second line.

“Just trying different line combinations,” coach Dale Hunter said, not biting on the suggestion that Aucoin had earned a promotion.

Asked about Semin’s play lately, Hunter pointed to the missed opportunity in OT against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“He had a chance in overtime — a great chance — and we need him to score,” the Capitals‘ coach said. “We need him to put up numbers and play good defensively.”

Semin has not scored a goal in five games and has just one in his past 10. One of Knuble, Halpern, Ward and Semin will likely be a healthy scratch Saturday at the Boston Bruins.

In talking about Semin’s game and the danger in star players trying to do too much, Hunter made it clear what he wouldn’t tolerate.

“You can’t turn pucks over against these teams like Tampa Bay that play that style. You’ve got to chip and chase,” he said. “You want to dangle guys and it looks good on TSN but you turn pucks over, it’ll cost you games.”

Hamrlik or Erskine?

With Mike Green beginning a three-game suspension Saturday, Washington needs another defenseman in the lineup. The logical candidates are Roman Hamrlik and John Erskine, who have both been healthy scratches lately.

Hamrlik has been a healthy scratch for eight straight games after committing a bad penalty and then firing back at his coach for that reasoning. Erskine last played Feb. 12 at the New York Rangers.

Neither player had any clue who would get the call.

“It’s me and Ersky, so we will see who he’s going to put in the lineup,” Hamrlik said. “[If it’s me], I’ll just play the way I played before.”

Hunter, speaking Friday morning before Green’s suspension was announced, didn’t know who would step in.

“We haven’t decided yet,” he said. “The cart before the horse.”

There’s naturally the possibility of a call-up from the Hershey Bears, but that would be even further of an indictment of the two veteran defensemen who are not injured and ready to play.

Who’s in net?

Tomas Vokoun won Thursday. Michal Neuvirth started the previous six. So, who’s the Capitals‘ goalie down the stretch?

If Hunter knows, he’s not letting on.

“You know they can’t play all the games, either. It’s too taxing on their body,” he said. “But you know, I’m always looking for a hot goalie.”

Win and you’re in? Both goalies have thrived on long stretches of playing time. Back-to-back games at the Bruins on Saturday and then home against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday could mean a platoon, at least in the immediate future.

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