Carter's potential starting to show for Flyers; depleted Caps calling for back-ups

November, 26, 2008
Here's how high we were on Jeff Carter before his rookie NHL season in 2005-06. We picked him for the Calder Trophy ahead of the likes of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.

OK, so it proves we're not always right. But the point is, we had seen Carter's scoring prowess in the Ontario Hockey League, and especially with Canada at the World Junior Championship, and thought he'd take the NHL by storm.

Carter had a decent rookie season (23 goals); but now, in his fourth NHL season, he is really showing what he's about. The Philadelphia Flyers forward was tied for the NHL scoring lead with 15 goals in 20 games before taking on Carolina on Wednesday night.

He's on a roll!

"I think it's just coming together now and I have a lot confidence," Carter told "I'm playing with good players and things are going well.

"But, to be honest, I really haven't done anything different," Carter added. "It's probably the fact that it's my fourth year now. I haven't had really a good start in any of my first three years. Having a good start this year built my confidence early and I've been rolling with it. We're playing some good hockey right now and I'm getting some good breaks."

Carter dipped to 14 goals in 62 games in his sophomore season and put up 29 goals in 82 games in 2007-08. The adjustment from junior to the NHL is a big step.

"It's definitely not easy," Carter said. "You see a lot of guys that are big scorers in junior that come in and really don't score at all. You really have to get back to basics. You're playing against grown men. It's tougher to get to the net and tougher to get in the open areas. You really have to bear down on the chances that you get."

Flyers coach John Stevens has shuffled his forward lines numerous times this season, so Carter has had different linemates; but right now, he's playing with Scott Hartnell and Andreas Nodl.

"We've played about three or four games together and it's been good," said Carter. "We've got a bit of everything. Harts is a hard-nosed player; he gets in low and works the puck. Nodl is a real smart player; he's real good defensively and makes smart plays. He gets the puck off the wall and into the middle for me, and that helps my game a lot, too, because I can build speed from below and get going."

Depleted Caps
The Washington Capitals took the ice Wednesday night with eight regulars out of their lineup.

The Caps put captain Chris Clark (stress fracture in forearm) on long-term injured reserve Wednesday, and that opened up the cap room to bring up prized blue-line prospect Karl Alzner, Washington's first pick, fifth overall, in the 2007 NHL draft.

"Since we called [Tyler] Sloan up, Alzner has been our best in Hershey," Caps GM George McPhee told Wednesday. "Real steady, not flashy, but doesn't make mistakes and doesn't take penalties."

We wouldn't be surprised if Alzner was up for good. He began the season in the AHL for two reasons -- his cap number ($1.6 million) was a little high and the Caps thought a little minor-league seasoning wouldn't hurt.

"We've always believed they should spend some time in the American League," said McPhee.

Twenty AHL games and a plus-15 rating later, and Alzner got his promotion.

"We had no choice on this one. We're so banged up, we had to call up four people," said McPhee. "And now, it's his opportunity."

The Caps also called up defenseman Sami Lepisto and forwards Chris Bourque and Graham Mink.

Three or four years ago, the Caps' season would have been toast if eight regulars were out. Now, thanks to solid drafting and developing, they've got the minor-league muscle to help weather the storm.

"We like our depth now, we like the young players that we have coming along," said McPhee. "It's kind of exciting to watch some of these guys play."

Aside from Clark, the other Caps injuries:

Brian Pothier -- Out indefinitely
Jeff Schultz -- Out four to six weeks, broken finger
Sergei Fedorov -- Day-to-day
Alexander Semin -- Day-to-day
Mike Green -- Day-to-day
Boyd Gordon -- Day-to-day
John Erskine -- Day-to-day

In the meantime, McPhee would not comment on the status of veteran center Michael Nylander, but we are told by other sources around the league he remains very much available and could be dealt within the next seven to 10 days.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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