PITTSBURGH – The two premier defensemen in the highly anticipated first meeting of the season between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals may have to miss the game because of injuries.
Sergei Gonchar of the Penguins and Mike Green of the Capitals were both listed as game-time decisions after the morning skate.
Gonchar was injured blocking a shot recently and has been playing through the pain, but may be forced to sit out the game tonight. Green was involved in a thunderous collision with Todd Bertuzzi of the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night and is nursing an undisclosed injury.
He was taking his equipment off gingerly after the morning skate and was non-committal when asked whether he would play against the Penguins.
“We’ll see,” Green said. “It depends how I feel when I wake up.”
HAVE GOLD MEDAL, WILL TRAVEL
Capitals defenseman John Carlson hasn’t had much time to bask in his overtime goal that gave USA the gold medal over Canada in the World Junior Championship three weeks ago, largely because he spends most days trying to remember where he is.
Carlson, who was loaned to the U.S. junior team from the Hershey Bears of the American League, went directly from Saskatoon to Winnipeg after the WJC for a two-game set against the Manitoba Moose. From there it was a call-up to Washington for two games before being sent down to play in the AHL All-Star Game in Portland. He was called up for the Pittsburgh game in the event Green won’t be able to play.
Carlson has hardly become a household name for his heroics the way he would have if he were a Canadian, but he knows people north of the 49th parallel know about him.
“When we played in Winnipeg, the fans were pretty funny and pretty hostile,” Carlson said. “They booed me every time I touched the puck, but I think it’s cool. It makes it fun. It shows what a big event it was.”
STIFFED FOR OVECHKIN
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was holding his scrum after the morning skate and when he was in mid-sentence, it was announced Alex Ovechkin was available and the crowd dispersed instantly.
“It’s like a high school dance when you’re hanging with a girl and then the good-looking guy comes along and away she goes,” Boudreau said. “I feel used. I want you to know that.”
As usual, the NHL has karma working against it. On the same night it has a marquee matchup with the Capitals and Penguins meeting for the first time this season, the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers face LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers.
VIDEO: Sid and Ovie ready to reignite rivalry
In last year’s Eastern Conference semifinal, the Capitals and Penguins had an epic battle and at the center of the war was Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. Each player had seven goals in the series, which helped elevate their already well-established rivalry to another level. Ken Campbell caught up with the superstars as they geared up for the next installment of Sid vs. Ovie. PRODUCER: Ted Cooper
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.