Posted April 24, 2013 on
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Claiming the Southeast Division title was an impressive feat for the Washington Capitals given their slow start.
Reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, meanwhile, could provide a huge boost to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night as they seek the victory that would reward them with a postseason spot of their own.
In this compressed lockout season, reaching the playoffs - let alone claiming the division - was a steep challenge to the Capitals after a brutal 2-8-1 start under first-year coach Adam Oates.
While playing in the mediocre Southeast gave Washington (26-18-2) some time to right itself, having Alexander Ovechkin return to playing at a superstar level after finding a comfort zone following his switch from right to left wing was a huge factor in tearing to a fifth division title in six seasons.
Ovechkin assisted on Nicklas Backstrom's go-ahead goal before scoring an empty-netter that capped a 5-3 win Tuesday night over Winnipeg that also clinched the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
"He's played great the last couple months, as we talked about his willingness to change positions for the team and for what I think will make him a better player," Oates said of Ovechkin, who has 13 goals and six assists in helping the Capitals win 10 of 11.
"He's had a good two months and he's pulled us along and all 20 guys have gotten better because of it. He's given us a lot of confidence, but like he's said, he's one piece of it - it's 20 guys."
Ovechkin echoed his coaches thoughts, noting the contributions of Matt Hendricks, Mathieu Perreault and Jason Chimera after each scored Tuesday.
"They played unbelievable," he said. "They scored a huge three goals for us. (Chimera) can't score almost all year and right now we need him to score and he's scoring goals. I hope that's going to give him more confidence."
Ovechkin's only off game recently came in Washington's lone loss this month, a 3-1 defeat last Thursday at Ottawa in which he had a minus-3 rating. The Senators (23-16-6) have dropped both their games since that victory, including 3-1 to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
But Karlsson's expected return for this game - he will decide after Thursday's morning skate - from a lacerated Achilles tendon suffered Feb. 14 would be a sorely needed boost to their offense from the blue line.
Ottawa has scored two goals in its last two games, converted 3 of 44 power plays in losing seven of 11 and failed to tally more than three goals in any of its last 13.
"I think he's closer, there's always a chance," coach Paul MacLean said following Wednesday's practice about Karlsson, who had six goals and four assists in 14 games before the injury. "He practiced and took a regular turn today so that's another step in the process and we'll see how it goes (Thursday). He's kind of an infectious personality, he's helped the tempo of our practices so it would help the tempo of our game."
The Senators can also clinch a playoff berth if Winnipeg loses in regulation to Montreal on Thursday night.
Craig Anderson, who made 31 saves in a 3-2 win over Washington in the other meeting Jan. 29, will start for Ottawa. He had 18 saves last Thursday in his third straight victory over the Capitals.
BEST OF MAXIM
The original diagnosis on Erik Karlsson‘s Achilles injury was that the Ottawa Senators defenseman would be out 4-to-6 months. It turns out, however, that he only needed a two and a half.
Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean told reporters following Thursday’s morning skate that Karlsson will indeed be in the lineup Thursday night when the Sens take on the Washington Capitals.
Erik Karlsson stood outside the visiting locker room, munching on a celebratory slice of pizza.
Must have tasted pretty good.
Karlsson spent the evening on the ice for the first time in about 2 1/2 months, and he and the Ottawa Senators are heading back to the NHL postseason.
They might even wind up back in the same arena next week.
Sergei Gonchar scored a power-play goal 47...
Shouts of “M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!” caromed off the walls of the Phone Booth on Tuesday night as the Washington Capitals locked up another Southeast Division title, their fifth in six years. In what was an up and down game, the Caps eventually came out on top, both in the game and in the division.Second chances were the theme for the Capitals in a must-win game last night. John...
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All season long, the undermanned Ottawa Senators did just enough to stay inside of the top-eight in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
But, it took the return of the reigning Norris Trophy winner to put them over the top.
Erik Karlsson, who was feared lost for the regular season and beyond with a brutal achilles tendon injury suffered...
When Matt Cooke's skate cut through Erik Karlsson's Achilles tendon back in February, hockey fans and writers universally assumed that it meant the end to the defenseman's 2013 season. Shockingly, Karlsson has not only returned to practicing with his team, but he is reportedly ready to return as soon as Thursday when the Senators battle the Washington Capitals.
For the third time in three tries this season, Daniel Alfredsson and the Ottawa Senators used their stingy style of play to beat the Washington Capitals.
The latest victory assured the Senators of a trip to the playoffs.
And guess who Ottawa might face in a best-of-seven series starting next week?
Sergei Gonchar scored a power-play goal 47 seconds into overtime on Erik Karlsson...
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Nine weeks ago, the Ottawa Senators feared Erik Karlsson lost for the season and beyond after losing 70% of his achilles tendon in a mid-February game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Thursday, at the Verizon Center, Erik Karlsson was slotted into the team's lineup -- a recovery completed weeks, if not months ahead of schedule.
Erik Karlsson is the best PR tool that the Senators organization is blessed with. When videotape evidence captured the 2012 Norris Trophy winner skating for what was presumably one of the first times since having surgery to repair his Achilles tendon, Ottawa was in the midst of a four-game losing streak that sent them plummeting towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff...
On a night where the Ottawa Senators clinched a playoff berth with a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin stole the show yet again with another highlight reel goal. Ovechkin took a pass from Marcus Johansson, which was almost a turnover when Chris Philips looked liked he was going to turn the tide with a solid defensive play. But The Great 8 had other plans. Ovechkin...
Erik Karlsson will play tonight against the Washington Capitals. #TheReturn
— Ottawa Senators (@NHL_Sens) April 25, 2013
71 days after a 70% laceration of his Achilles and #65 is back in the lineup somewhow.
Are we invigorated, hopeful, concerned, awed, and slaves to a cult of personality?
Yes all those things, listed here in song form.
a) Mark Morrison -...
Alex Ovechkin was one of five goal scorers for Washington as they knocked off the Winnipeg Jets 5-3 to claim the Southeast Division title and the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
SPIN: The Capitals needed a big run to save their season and they got it. Ovechkin is making a late run to be fantasy MVP. Nicklas Backstrom scored a rare goal for the Capitals , his eighth of...
The Washington Capitals clinched the Southeast Division title Tuesday night, completing a stark turnaround in a lockout-shortened season with a 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets.
Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 31st goal, John Erskine cleared two shots off the goal line, and Braden Holtby made 24 saves for the Capitals, who have won 10 of 11 to secure a playoff berth with two...
With the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets eying the playoffs amid red-hot stretches to end the regular season, Tuesday night's clash at the Verizon Center is monumental for both clubs.
Washington can clinch the Southeast Division title with a victory, which would in turn be a crucial blow for Winnipeg's chances.
The Capitals (25-18-2) have won 13 of their last 16 and...
The Washington Capitals knocked the Boston Bruins out of last year's playoffs, and now they have a chance to put a dent in their chances for a Northeast Division title.
Washington looks to head into the postseason on a high note Saturday night when they host a Boston team seeking consistency down the stretch.
The Capitals (26-18-3) wrapped up their fifth Southeast Division...