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December 14, 2010
On The Beat
Tough Times in the Capital

by John Perrotto

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Bruce Boudreau's seat is beginning to get warm for the first time since he became the Capitals' coach three years ago. His team has not only lost six straight games but has looked bad in doing so.

"We have to find a way to get out of this," Boudreau said.

Boudreau has always been able to motivate his players through tough times but the Capitals' current slide presents a unique situation. Their offense is in a slump as the Capitals have scored just eight goals during the six-game skid and have been held to zero or one goal four times in that span.

Boudreau employs a fast-paced offensive style that has been seemingly slump-proof until now. However, teams may be finding that the secret to stopping the Capitals is by blocking shots. The Canadiens did so successfully last spring when they upset the Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Rangers blocked 17 shots last Saturday in a 7-0 rout.

Thus, Boudreau is left searching for solutions for the first time since joining the Capitals. Despite the current woes, he has a 159-67-31 record since replacing Glen Hanlon 21 games into the 2007-08 season.

"I don't have an answer right now," Boudreau said. "It's unfamiliar territory. I think we have a lot of people feeling sorry for themselves."

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The Devils haven't missed the postseason since 1998. However, their chances of making it to the playoffs this season seem to be dimming with each loss, as they are 8-19-2 and in 14th place in the Eastern Conference, ahead of only the Islanders.

"It's not looking good," center Jason Arnott said. "We're getting further and further away from that No. 8 spot. It's getting nearly impossible. If we don't put a string of wins together by Christmas time, we're going to find ourselves on a long road."

The Devils have lost five straight games and scored just eight goals during the skid.

"I've never experienced this," left wing Patrik Elias said. "It's tough. We try to come into every game with a good mindset. Even if it's really hard, we believe that this is the day, this is the game that we're going to turn it around. It's even more frustrating when we do feel like we're playing okay and we're just not getting the points."

First-year coach John MacLean is trying to stay positive, though it seems his job could be in jeopardy. He still believes the Devils can make the playoffs.

"You never run out of time," MacLean said. "It's going to be hard, but there's still time."

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The Blue Jackets have slipped after being an early-season surprise. They are 2-6-1 in their last nine games, dropping their overall record to 16-11-2.

In an effort to get his team going again after falling into 11th place in the Western Conference, coach Scott Arniel is putting an emphasis on skating and forechecking.

"It can't just be your role players, it's got to be everyone doing it," Arniel said. "The biggest thing to me is, it forces us to move our feet. And secondly, it takes away time from the other team to make plays. It's not about how tough you are, it's just about getting in there and banging. We got away from being an attack team, and that's where we had gotten our results."

Former Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock was always fond of saying "checking is everything." The current Blue Jackets players are learning that first-hand.

"It's a hard way to play," right winger Rick Nash said. "You are always having to move your feet. But it's what has worked for us. It creates turnovers and leads to a lots of scoring chances."

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There is no in between when it comes to the Panthers' special teams. They are both very good and very bad.

The Panthers are the least-penalized team in the NHL and they've been successful when they've had to play shorthanded, killing 24 of the last 26 penalties. Conversely, the Panthers are an awful 3-for-55 on the power play in their last 20 games and have scored just eight goals all season with the man advantage.

Coach Peter DeBoer has been trying to come up with a solution to the power-play outage without success. So, at least for the time being, he just hopes that the Panthers don't have to play short-handed very often.

"When we stay out of the box, we're a tough team," DeBoer said. "When we keep our feet moving, have four lines rolling and have the puck, we're a much better team. With our power play, we don't want to be trading chances with anyone."

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