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Capitals notebook: Semin returns to second line

BY ZAC BOYER

NEW YORK—Alexander Semin was on the fourth line for the Washington Capitals’ morning skate Monday at Madison Square Garden, just as he was for the team’s practice Sunday.

When it came to game time, though, Dale Hunter wasn’t messing around.

Semin was back on the second line for the Capitals’ 3–2 victory over the New York Rangers on Monday, removing any questions about whether Semin was being punished for his two careless penalties in the Game 1 loss on Saturday.

The right wing had a first-period slashing call and a third-period tripping penalty in the 3–1 defeat, but his contributions on offense and on the power play are too much to overlook. Hunter said after the morning session he was “just switching lines around” and that Semin, despite a pre-practice chat with athletic trainer Greg Smith, is completely healthy.

“He’ll come out and work hard,” Hunter said. “We need him to score goals for us and we need him to play good on power plays, so he’ll come out and work hard.”

Semin took 16 shifts, playing 12:27, but his time was the fourth-least among any Capitals player. He managed just one shot on goal Monday, though three others were blocked and one missed.

He scored three goals in the seven-game first-round series against Boston, two of which were on the power play, and he had a team-high three of the 18 shots on goal the Capitals managed in Game 1 of this series.

Alex Ovechkin said before the game that Semin is aware the penalties came as a result of after poor decisions.

“He’s not a rookie,” Ovechkin said. “He knows that he can’t take that penalty, can’t take that kind of penalty that he take in the first. Of course, [when] he takes a penalty … everybody thinks, ‘Jeez, why I have to do that?’ You feel bad for your penalty guys to kill the penalty while you sit on the benches. You’re like, ‘Please don’t score a goal.’ It’s not a good feeling.”

RANGERS’ BOYLE RETURNS

The Rangers’ Brian Boyle returned to action as the third-line center after missing three games with a concussion.

Boyle, who scored goals in the first three games of New York’s first-round series victory over Ottawa, sustained the concussion in Game 5, depriving the team of one of its better face-off men.

The center said it was the first time he’s sustained a concussion, and while he wasn’t sure what to expect in his recovery, he hadn’t given much thought to missing extended time—as the Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, among others, have.

“I’m just gonna try to skate healthy,” Boyle said. “I’m not gonna really think about the long-term. If I feel healthy, I know I’ll feel healthy, and I’ll play, and hopefully it doesn’t last forever.”

Boyle played 15:20 and went 6 for 14 on faceoffs, managing one shot on goal during the game.

SCHULTZ MOVES UP

Jeff Schultz replaced John Erskine in the Capitals’ third defensive pairing, teaming with Dennis Wideman. Schultz played the first three games of the first-round series against Boston and again in Game 7, while Erskine played in the other four games. Schultz is “a big guy with a big reach and he’s played good defensively,” Hunter said, explaining the switch.

Zac Boyer: 540/374-5440

zboyer@freelancestar.com

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