Lesson learned: Don’t split up the Ruskies.

You knew the plot already. Mike Knuble‘s return to active play had an ill portent for the Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin (Please don’t call them the “Young Guns”) line. It turned out that Bruce Boudreau decided to demote the “lesser” Alexander to the second line with Morrison and Laich.  (Russian Machine cannot abide.)  After 30 lackluster minutes and a two-goal deficit, our esteemed coach must have noticed that Semin was unhappy and that Ovie’s line could not gain traction. Wisely, Boudreau restored the top line, The Care Bears (adorable, snuggly, have magical powers– get it???). Not 3 minutes later, Alexander Semin produced his first goal of the night. Cooperation among comrades!

Alexander would go on to score another before the 2nd period was out and would maintain a menacing presence in front of the Canes net all night. Semin was joined in goals by Tomas Fleischmann, who wisely took a shot rather than pass to Ovie; and Mike Green, whose overtime goal –  which led the Caps to a 4-3 OT win over the Carolina Hurricanes – redeemed the shorty giveaway he made possible late in the third.

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I hope you’re sitting down, because I’ve got some bad news: The Caps have injuries!

Unibrowed wonder Semyon Varlamov is out with a groin injury, which could keep him out for a week or longer (WP). Groin injuries are particularly troublesome to goalies, and this one could be even worse for an acrobat like Varly. Russian Machine has sent Varlamov detailed illustrated instructions on how to appropriately ice a groin. In the meantime, Jose Theodore will start in net and should be backed up by Mike Neuvirth. Jose Theodore has shown renewed gusto this season, manifested in a lightning-fast glove hand and multiple 30+ save games. We love Neuvirth like we love all of our Calder Cup-winning Bears, but the sooner he’s back above the Mason-Dixon line the better.

Brian Pothier (+11 plus/minus rating so far this year) left halfway through the Sabres game on Wednesday with an injury to his ribs. Tarik El-Bashir quoted coach Boudreau: “It’s one of those injuries that I don’t know how long he’s going to be out for. It could be one week [or] it could be six weeks. Rib injuries are so difficult to figure out. But he’s a tough kid and I know he’ll battle through it, and as quick as he can, he’ll be back.” Brian’s injury may force the Caps to depend even more on an already over-leveraged Mike Green.

If you were honestly expecting an update on Boyd Gordon today, I don’t even know how to talk to you.

Mike Knuble is expected to return tonight after nearly a month out of commission with a broken finger. If you recall, Kanoobie tripped over Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding, narrowly avoiding a faceplant at the cost of his shooting hand.  Before that, Mike had done a terrific job assimilating into the team and filling the void left by Sergei Federov last Spring. When Sasha (Ovechkin) & Sasha (Semin) were having trouble producing goals earlier this season, Knuble stepped up and brought some offensive oomph! to the Caps. It will be interesting to see if Bruce Boudreau will keep the current top line (Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin) in tact in light of the veteran’s return. There may also be increased scrutiny on Alexander Semin to convert his flashy moves into actual points lest he be brought down to the dreaded second line, usually populated by Brooks Laich and assorted upstarts from Hershey.

Speaking of the Bears, Mathieu Perrault (6 points in 16 games) will be back tonight after missing a couple of games due to food poisoning. In context of Knuble’s broken pinky finger and Varlamov’s chafed loins, the Capitals officially have the lamest injuries in the NHL right now.

And that’s where we stand. Expect an invigorated and motivated Caps team tonight. Knuble and Perrault’s return could be a shot of energy to a team that can sometimes look sleepy. Plus, the boys now have competition at the top of the NHL: the San Jose Sharks (44 points). And the Caps should be sufficiently rested tonight since they haven’t really played pro hockey since Monday.  Zing!

Faceoff is at 7:00 PM. If you want Nachos from Applebees after the first period, try to sync your carryout order for 7:40.