Friday, October 3, 2008

Capitals continue to make roster cuts

The Washington Capitals, just days away from opening night in the NHL, tweaked their roster on Thursday by assigning four players to the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Assigned to Hershey were defenseman Tyler Sloan, Grant McNeill and Sami Lepisto and goaltender Simeon Varlamov.

Sloan, a 27-year-old native of Calgary, Alberta, was pointless in two preseason affairs with a plus-minus rating of –1. The eight year pro, who was never drafted, played in 56 games for Hershey last season, recording one goal and seven assists.

McNeill, a 25-year-old native of Vermilion, Alberta, skated in two preseason outings, going scoreless and collecting 12 PIM’s. The former third-round selection of the Florida Panthers in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft split last season between Hershey and the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, accumulating a combined 278 PIM’s. The six year pro also has three games of NHL experience on his resume, all with the Panthers in the 2003-2004 season. During his short NHL stint, the always willing to drop the gloves McNeill did just that, engaging in a bout with former Capitals’ tough guy Chris Simon.

Lepisto, a 23-year-old native of Espoo, Finalnd, was scoreless and served two PIM’s in three preseason tilts. The former third-round selection of the Capitals in the 2004 NHL entry draft split last season with Hershey and the Capitals, picking up an assist in seven affairs with the Capitals, and notching four goals and 41 assists with Hershey. The swift skating rearguard, regarded as one of the premiere rookie defenseman in the AHL last season, finished third overall in the league with a plus/minus rating of +29.

Varlamov, a 20-year-old native of Sarma, Russia, made one preseason appearance, combining with fellow rookie Michal Neuvirth to shutout the Philadelphia Flyers on Sept. 18. The former first-round selection of the Capitals in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft is entering his first season in North America after appearing in 44 contests with Yaroslavl of the Russian Super League last season.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bears sink Admirals in preseason opener

In a game that featured plenty of punching power in the early moments, including a pair of fights within the first two minutes of play, the Hershey Bears sailed by the Norfolk Admirals on the strength of four power play goals on Sunday at Giant Center, by a final score of 5-4.

Rookie Michael Dubuc, who scored the only goal of the first period 1:26 into the stanza when he beat Norfolk goaltender Craig “Killer” Kowalski, led the Hershey charge with a pair of goals. When asked whether or not he was surprised by Dubuc’s play, Head Coach Bob Woods replied, “We got a chance to see him in summer camp in Washington. He impressed everybody there, and that’s a big reason he is here now. It’s nice to see guys with offensive ability and a knack for scoring to score like he did tonight.”

Francois Bouchard, Sean Collins (GWG) and Ben Boudreau also tallied for Hershey. Hershey starting netminder Michal Neuvirth, allowed a pair of goals to Norfolk’s Daryl Boyle and Mathieu Curadeau early in the second period, but was otherwise unbeatable in 30:04 between the pipes, stopping 13 of 15 shots. Bobby Goepfert, Neuvirth’s replacement at 10:04 of the second period, surrendered goals to Norfolk’s Justin Keller and Jason Beckett in 29:48 of action, and was credited with the win.

Boudreau, son of former Hershey Bears head coach and current Washington Capitals head coach, Bruce Boudreau, talked about his first AHL game while receiving a congratulatory handshake from Hershey GM Doug Yingst: “I was worried about keeping the puck out of my own net; it was a huge bonus (to score). Watching for 3 years in the stands and then getting a chance here, it’s a lot of fun.”

Woods, who still converses with the Caps’ bench boss when he visits Chocolatetown, joked about Bruce’s presence on the night of his son’s first game as a player at Giant Center: “I had some parent coming in and giving me a hassle, saying his kid wasn’t getting enough ice time. I thought that only happened in minor hockey.”

With his youngest hockey-playing son, Brady, by his side, the proud papa quipped, “As a father, you can’t describe it; it’s pretty exciting. When my kids play, I get so darn nervous, and tonight was no exception.”