Cheapseats: Dog days of December are here

Washington Capitals' John Erskine (4) eyes the puck in front of Capitals' Dennis Wideman (6) and...

Washington Capitals' John Erskine (4) eyes the puck in front of Capitals' Dennis Wideman (6) and Ottawa Senators' Jason Spezza during first period of their NHL hockey game in Washington December 3, 2011. (REUTERS/Molly Riley)

Don Brennan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:43 PM ET

WASHINGTON — Because their team is better on paper than ice, some people accuse certain Caps of being dogs. The Senators, near as we can tell, only have one.

His name is Kaspars Daugavins, aka “Dog” or “Doggy,” and when he scores a goal, he plays the role.

On the celebratory, single-file skate by the bench, Daugavins barks like a mutt as he delivers his high-fives.

“They made me do it last year in the American League, so I just keep doing it,” the 23-year-old winger said before Saturday’s game against the Caps. “They think it’s funny. They call me dog. A crazy dog. So I bark.

“I think it pumps up the guys, so it’s good.”

Daugavins has been good for the Senators since being called up from Binghamton in the last week of October. Good enough, in fact, that it’s hard to imagine him going back.

On ice, Daugavins has fit well most recently on a solid third line with Zack Smith and Erik Condra, plus done a fine job killing penalties. And in 16 games before Washington, he had gone barking three times.

Daugavins did score 40 in 62 games his second of three years for Eugene Melnyk’s Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, however, so it’s a good idea to ask coach Paul MacLean about his offensive upside.

“Our expectations of him are to be just what he is right now,” said MacLean. “To play on that line and contribute. What they contribute is great to our team. We’re not putting a number on how many they should get.

“He’s a player that hangs on to the puck really well. He sees the ice good. The production they’ve been giving has been timely and it’s important we have secondary scoring throughout our lineup.”

Almost as important is Daugavins contribution to team chemistry. Everybody in the room loves the Latvian.

“I’m probably a more simple guy,” he said, when asked why. “I hang with everybody, anywhere. Even when we were kids, there were groups on the teams that would hang out, but I’d try to hang out with everyone. Makes some friends.

“Everybody laughs at my accent,” he added. “I guess that’s why they hang out. I have some funny jokes, too, once in awhile.”

Tell the good folks something else about you, Dog.

“I like to golf a lot in the summer time. Spend my summers mostly back home in Latvia. It’s a good place, right on the sea, if nobody knows that.”

That doesn’t sound too ruff, does it?

THE BIG PICTURE: MacLean says he doesn’t look at the standings “as diligently as maybe everyone else does” at this time of the year. But as someone who has spent almost 20 years working in the NHL, he does know tendencies. “I don’t think they move far after November, or December,” he said when asked Saturday morning. “At this point, a three-point game comes into affect with the shootout. The pack seems to move as a whole. Wherever everybody is on Dec. 1 is usually where everybody is on April 15, less one or two teams that might slide up or down.” That would mean he expects the Sens to be in eighth when the dust settles then, as that’s where they were Thursday? “I’d have to look at the standings to know that,” MacLean said, grinning. “That would be the expectation, I suppose. But we’re gonna see where we are at the end of the day.”

STARTS AND STOPS: Dale Hunter had heads shaking when he fell for the line cast by MacLean just before the game started. As visiting coach, MacLean had to submit his starting lineup first. He went with his fourth. Good chance to throw Alex Ovechkin out for a mismatch, right? Instead, Hunter went with the match by starting his fourth line. “What is he doing?” said one hockey guy ... It was a milestone night for Ovechkin and former Sens prospect Brooks Laich, as both were playing their 500th NHL game. Ovechkin leads on the head-to-head scoreboard, 309-104.

STUFF I THINK I THUNK: Nikita Filatov must have a sore neck, the way his leash was yanked Saturday. (I know, more dog talk, eh?) From the first line, he fell all the way up to the pressbox as a healthy scratch. “Nik has been good with the puck, real diligent without the puck,” MacLean said. “The only thing is we don’t see any results. We need production out of that spot.” I don’t think MacLean is showing enough patience here. Filatov has only played two games, plus a handful of shifts since being recalled. “It’s a little unfair I suppose, but that’s the expectation, that he’s an offensive player who can handle the puck and make plays,” said MacLean. “So it’s reasonable to expect production and we haven’t got that.” ... If you don’t love the Senators new fourth line (Zenon Konopka-Jesse Winchester-Chris Neil) then you don’t love Slapshot. And everybody loves Slapshot ... Fans here make this high-pitched “woot woot” noise whenever former Cap Sergei Gonchar touches the puck. Not sure what it means, but they sound goofy.

BETWEEN PERIODS: In their first game for the Binghamton Senators Friday, Stephane Da Costa had two assists and was a plus-1 while Matt Carkner was a minus-1, had a penalty and three shots on goal in a 4-1 win over Manchester. On a conditioning stint, Carkner wasn’t scheduled to play again Saturday, but is to be in the lineup Sunday and Wednesday. “He can stay there for longer, but I think he’s going to play in three games,” said MacLean. “If he feels better, I guess, he’ll come back. If he feels he needs more games, he’ll stay.” Just a guess, but Carkner will be “feeling better” late Wednesday ... Mark Borowiecki had his third fight of the season. The B-Sens had 19 as of Friday, with Francis Lessard leading the way. He had seven.

MAKES ME GO HMMM ...: Which is the tougher Neil, Chris or Caitlin? Thought the answer to that one was clear before I asked MacLean if it was better for his bullish right winger to return from a nine-game absence at home or on the road. “Doesn’t matter to me or to him,” said MacLean. “But if we didn’t play him, I think, we’d all be in trouble with his wife. We better make sure we play him.” ... The regular Cheapseats feature — Zenon’s Tale of The Tape — could not be done Saturday. The subject was busy shaving his Movember ’stache.


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