Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hanlon the Mad Scientist

Preseason games generally don't mean a thing and tend to be slightly less entertaining than regular season, but this year it looks like we will have some interesting things to watch. The usual suspects will likely be back this year with a few additions sprinkled throughout, so the coaching staff will instead use this time to test out some new approaches, lines and strategies. Some things to look for:

- Ben Clymer on defense - Hanlon's experimental placement of the gritty winger in his original d-man role will finally play out Wednesday night at the Phone Booth. Both the coaching staff and Clymer seem to be optimistic about the move, which is always a good sign. I like the fact that Hanlon will only move him back to the blue line permanently if he can challenge for a top four role - no sense in limiting Clymer's ice time and taking a roster spot from a young defenseman if he's really more suited to playing up front. I have to say, as much as I loved the CBS line, I'm excited to see how Ben will adjust to this new role.

- New power play configurations - Will the high firepower line of Zubie, Semin, Zednik, Ovechkin and Pothier produce, or will we be subjected to another stretch of games that were lost by special teams alone? I'll say one thing for this combo - it certainly won't be boring to watch...don't think for a minute that the second unit will be a snooze-fest, either.

- The Center Saga - Expect to see Kris Beech getting a good look against the Bolts. All reports point to increased confidence in his evolution towards becoming a true NHLer, but only experience in an actual NHL setting will confirm or disprove that confidence. He will have Sutherby and Laich biting at his heels, both of whom are capable centers in their own right. Sutherby is coming into the game fresh off the heels of his "feistiness" (a little kerfuffle with young'un Chad Wiseman during a scrimmage). It's good to see that kind of passion and energy in camp - let's hope it carries over on to the main stage.

That's it for today - stay tuned as I attempt my first pre-game coverage, all leading up to that much awaited puck drop tomorrow night. Caps strike the Lightning, 7 pm Verizon Center - hope to see you there!

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