Capitals know tough work is ahead

Capitals know tough work is ahead
April 25, 2011, 5:24 pm

Monday, April 25, 2011, 1:30 p.m.

By Ryan OHalloran
Staff WriterCSNwashington.com

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It wasnt his intention, but Capitals winger Matt Bradley was undoubtedly speaking for the entire locker room and, heck, the entire franchise after the team returned to work Monday.

We havent achieved anything yet, Bradley said. We won the first round five-game win over the Rangers. Big deal. Were happy we did that, but that was never our only goal.

The mind-set prevalent after Saturdays 3-1 win remained present after an optional practice that included nine Capitals who skated in the clinching game.

Beating the Rangers is great the beards dont have to be sheared off and the summer hasnt started. But for this group, its not nearly enough.

Last years first-round demon has been exorcised. Now, its time to break through another barrier and win two playoff series for the first time in 13 years.

You have to keep going, winger Jason Chimera said. Its going to get harder and harder. ... It will get ramped up even more. Everybody will be jacked up. Its a fun time of the year when you get deeper and deeper into the playoffs.

The Capitals will spend the next few days working on their own system until they learn their opponent (Buffalo, Montreal, Tampa Bay or Pittsburgh).

With the potential of having five to seven days between games, coach Bruce Boudreau has mapped out a plan that will provide players with equal parts rest and crisp practices to maintain their focus and edge.

I think you can do a week off without a big impact, Boudreau said. This is a good two days off for most players. Well work them the rest of the week, and well work hard.

During the last long playoff run he experienced (2007 in Hershey), Boudreaus teams had layoffs of seven, eight and six days between series. He held team golf and bowling outings on days when the Bears werent on the ice.

We did something together every day, Boudreau said. It was easier to do in the minors. Hershey is a town of 17,000, and most of them are younger players; Washington, there are a few more things to do.

Boudreau will still have the players show up at Kettler Capitals IcePlex every day, including Mondays 11:45 a.m. team meeting.

Its important to be around everybody, said defenseman John Carlson, who did practice. Our team has been meshing pretty well on and off the ice, and thats something we can keep moving forward with. And just getting up in the morning and going to work for a few hours is good.

Boudreau said: Its about staying focused and not let yourself get lost in a summer-type atmosphere, which is why we want everybody at the rink every day.

Having a break during the two-month grind is essential for the eventual Cup winner. The past five champions had at least four days off between every series. The longest lay-off was eight days for Anaheim between the second and third rounds.

Practice is huge, Chimera said. A couple days off is good for some guys to get them all healed up, but you have to keep the intensity level up. You cant have a letdown.

Injured winger Mike Knuble and defenseman Dennis Wideman skated in full pads before and during the practice.

We havent set a timetable yet, Boudreau said of their potential returns.

Defenseman Mike Green did not practice and watched for only a few minutes alongside Alex Ovechkin. Green did not play after blocking a shot with his head on Saturday.

Hes fine, Boudreau said.

The non-injured regulars who practiced Monday: Bradley, Chimera, Carlson, Karl Alzner, John Erskine, Matt Hendricks, Jeff Schultz, Marcus Johansson, Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.

The Capitals longest between-series layoff is eight days in 1998 between the first and second rounds.

Hershey was eliminated by Charlotte on Sunday night, and its expected several Bears, including goalie Braden Holtby, will be brought to Washington for the next series to serve as depth extras in case of injury.

Contact OHalloran at rohalloran@comcastsportsnet.com.