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Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals: Here Come the Young Guns

Washington CapitalsWith injuries beginning to pile up, the Capitals will turn to their younger skaters to step up in e hectic period. With games against the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Senators and Sabres over the next six days, the Caps face a difficult test, with Alex Semin, Jose Theodore, Shaone Morrisonn, Milan Jurcina, Boyd Gordon and Quintin Laing all sidelined, there is plenty of opportunity for the team’s youngsters. Michal Neuvirth and John Carlson have been called up from Hershey to join Mathieu Perreault, Alex Giroux and Jay Beagle who have been called up to the Caps roster having started the season with the Bears. Here’s a run-down on some of these players and how they might feature over the next few days:

Mathieu Perreault: In his seven games for the Caps, Perreault has been extremely impressive, with two goals and three assists. At 5’10 and 174lb, there were fears that the 21-year old center would have trouble dealing with the physical demands of top-level hockey. But the 6th round 2006 draft pick proved the doubters wrong in his first game managing two assists in his first NHL game, and continuing the great player against the Panther when his goal spurred the Caps on to a 7-4 victory. The fact that he has been chosen ahead of Michael Nylander is a testament to his achievements. Expect Perreault to feature heavily in the next few games and probably record a fair few points.

John Carlson: Carlson was another player who Bruce Boudreau admitted was a tough cut after a good pre-season and it is easy to see why. The 1st round 2008 pick had an excellent season with London Knights last year, managing 76 points in just 59 games in the regular season and 22 in 14 in the playoffs. The step up to the AHL in the playoffs decreased Carlson’s point production, but not his level of defensive play as he continued to shut down opposition offenses. He will partner, at least for tonight’s game against the Habs, Tom Poti, from whom he could learn a great deal as Poti doesn’t often get on the score sheet, but is consistently solid. Bruce Boudreau has tried to keep the Carlson situation calm with the assurance that it is a learning curve and that no matter how the youngster plays the organization will not think any more or less of him.

Michal Neuvirth: With Theodore out due to personal reasons, Neuvirth will expect a couple of games over the next few days. The 2nd round 2006 draft pick turned some heads in Washington after first impressing in his first NHL game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, recording thirty-one saves in a 5-1 win. The Czech goalie finished his five-appearance stint for the Capitals with a 3.00 goals against average and two wins under his belt, but really impressed after returning to Hershey, as he led the Bears to the 2009 Calder Cup. Neuvirth was 16-6 in the team’s playoff run and set a new AHL record with a 1.92 GAA in the postseason. When Olaf Kolzig left Washington, many fans were worried about the future of goaltending in the Caps team. Semyon Varlamov went some way to restoring hope with his fantastic playoff performance last year, and Neuvirth should put any more fears to bed. A naturally gifted goalie, Neuvirth has shown excellent composure and consistency at the top-level, so should fare well if called upon any time soon.

Matt Bradley was a catalyst in the Rangers win and will no doubt get a lot of ice time as he looks to play with high energy to spark the weakened Capitals. If the games without Ovechkin are anything to go by, the Caps should deal with the numerous injuries very well, and hopefully the younger players will perform well and learn a lot from the experience.

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