ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Old friends Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin planned to get together for dinner Monday night, ahead of the Washington Capitals' big game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
It's safe to say Troy Brouwer would not be joining them.
Brouwer took a few potshots at Semin's work ethic after Monday's practice, reviving the reputation that dogged the talented but enigmatic Russian's seven seasons in Washington. The Capitals finally said goodbye to Semin last summer, and he signed with the Hurricanes as a free agent.
"It was tough to lose his scoring ability, when he wanted to play," Brouwer said. "But all in all I think we've been doing well without him. ... Some nights you didn't even know if he was going to come to the rink. It's tough to play alongside guys like those because you don't know what you're going to get out of 'em."
For good measure, Brouwer also said the Capitals had a "very lackadaisical" culture under former coach Bruce Boudreau. The streak of candor highlighted an eventful day of news good and bad that comes just as Ovechkin and the Capitals are finding themselves with a chance to ride some momentum and get out of last place.
Goaltender Braden Holtby and defenseman John Erskine both signed two-year contract extensions, Holtby for $3.7 million and Erskine for $3.925 million. But center Nicklas Backstrom missed practice with an illness and left wing Jason Chimera departed early with a lower body injury, leaving the Capitals contemplating a possible call-up from the minors for a game that could get them back in the running in the Southeast Division.
The Capitals are one of the surprises so far in the lockout-crunched season, losing 11 of their first 17 games to sit near the bottom of the NHL standings. But they're coming off of a dominating turn-back-the-clock performance, with Ovechkin scoring his first hat trick in more than two years in a 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
This could therefore be a make-or-break week. A win on Tuesday would pull the Capitals within four points of the first-place Hurricanes. There's also a road game against the division-contending Winnipeg Jets sandwiched around a game against the Philadelphia Flyers.