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Theodore makes first save

Goalie deflects Plekanec’s shot

Associated Press / April 14, 2010

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There’s nothing like juicy bulletin-board material to accompany the announcement of a starting goaltender.

Jose Theodore not only was formally anointed the No. 1 goalie for the Washington Capitals yesterday over Semyon Varlamov, he also proved he can give as good as he gets when it comes to taking a dig at the opposition.

The back-and-forth started when Montreal Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec was quoted in yesterday’s edition of the Montreal newspaper La Presse, talking about the Capitals’ goaltender situation.

“It’s not as though we are facing [Martin] Brodeur or [Ryan] Miller,’’ Plekanec said, according to the paper. “They don’t have a dominant goaltender. When you look at the goaltending matchup in this series it favors our team. I just believe that our goaltending is more solid than theirs. I’m not saying their goalies are bad. I’m just saying our goalies are better.’’

After Washington’s practice yesterday, Theodore was ready with a response.

“Tomas who? Jagr?’’ Theodore said with a smirk. “Oh, Plekanec, OK. I thought you meant Jagr.’’

No rest for the weary
Evgeni Malkin must wonder if the season will ever end.

Malkin has played or practiced hockey for all but two months since August 2008, a laborious grind even for a 23-year-old who is one of the NHL’s best players. That’s 203 regular season and playoff games in 19 months for the Pittsburgh Penguins center, plus four more in the Olympics, during what must seem like one endless season.

All that hockey is creating a worry for the Penguins as they begin defense of their Stanley Cup championship against the Ottawa Senators tonight. To have any chance of repeating, the Penguins need Malkin to be the player he was in winning the playoffs MVP award last spring. That’s the player they didn’t always see this season, when Malkin scored seven fewer goals and had 36 fewer points than he did last season, when he won the scoring title. He ended the season as a minus-6, compared to his plus-17 rating of last season.

Streaking Wings
Simply making the playoffs looked like it might be tough at times this season for the Detroit Red Wings. Now, the two-time defending Western Conference champions are playing so well anything seems possible. They were a league-best 16-3-2 since the Olympics break. Detroit coach Mike Babcock likes his team’s chances. “I felt like we were going to win every year we’ve been in the playoffs,’’ Babcock said. “And, we have lots of years.’’ Detroit made the postseason for the 19th straight time, but for only the first time since the streak started the Red Wings will open on the road. The fourth-seeded Phoenix Coyotes host No. 5 seed Detroit tonight. . . . Evgeni Nabokov has appeared in goal in the last five postseasons for San Jose, becoming a central figure in some of the Sharks’ recent playoff failures. Craig Anderson is a playoff novice who will get his first taste of postseason action when the Colorado Avalanche open their first-round Western Conference series against the Sharks tonight. The discrepancy in playoff experience between these two teams is about as big as the difference in the standing between the top-seeded Sharks and the eighth-seeded Avalanche. Nowhere is that as obvious as it is in goal. “It should help us this time,’’ Nabokov said of past playoff experience . . . Avalanche rookie Matt Duchene says he will be ready tonight despite a torso injury. Duchene skated yesterday and said afterward he’s “excited to get going.’’ . . . Colorado will be without forward Peter Mueller, who will not make the trip. He has been sidelined with a head injury after a hit along the boards against San Jose on April 4 . . . The Predators are 0-10 on the road in the playoffs during their five postseason appearances in the last six years. Jordin Tootoo summed up the situation: “Stats are for losers.’’ This season though, nearly half of Nashville’s wins came away from home. The Predators, who face the Blackhawks in the playoffs, ranked fifth with 23 road wins.

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