Theodore tops in D.C.

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

With 106 points, the Washington Capitals are run­away leaders in their division, conference and overall NHL standings.

They play with confidence and flair, score in bunches and, at odds of 7-2, show all the signs of being legitimate Stanley Cup favourites.

But it all means nothing if they can’t keep the puck out of their own net a month from now.

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau doesn’t want to jinx his team — nor does he want to go into the postseason with uncertainty, as he did a year ago. But the recent play of Jose Theodore is starting to inspire some confidence.

“The way he’s playing, he certainly is,” Boudreau said when asked whether Theo­dore is making his case. “He’s in a groove and he’s playing with a lot of confidence. Touch wood ... I don’t want to say anything to spoil it.”

In his past 18 games, Theodore is 16-0-2 and playing with the confidence that sometimes betrayed him last year.

He was replaced, remember, after one game in the Caps’ playoffs run by Semyon Varlamov, who was then a rookie. Hampered by injuries and inconsistent play, however, Varlamov has been mostly backup material to Theodore since the New Year.

“(Theodore’s) been like that since Jan. 1,” Boudreau said. “I’m not naming anybody anything, but he’s certainly making a name for himself.”

No desert dog

Lee Stempniak is kind of like that racehorse who repeatedly finished out of the money and suddenly can do nothing but win.

Don’t read any further if you are a skittish Maple Leafs supporter ... but after 14 goals in 62 games with the Leafs, Stempniak has nine in his eight games as a Coyote.

Since being dealt to Phoenix at the deadline, Stempniak has had three two-goal games including one in Phoenix’s big comeback win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. He now has 23 on the season and should be a cinch to match the career high of 27 he scored with the Blues in the 2006-07 season.

Apology not accepted

Injured Chicago defenceman Brian Campbell has a message for Alex Ovechkin: Don’t bother calling.

Campbell scoffs at the remorse the Capitals sniper showed for the hit from behind that will keep him out for up to eight weeks.

“Whatever he says isn’t going to change the fact I’m not going to be playing for a little while,” Campbell told the Chicago Tribune in his first extended comment on the hit that earned Ovie a two-game suspension. “I think the intent was there. If the intent is there, I don’t think you can really say you didn’t mean to do anything.

“So for me, I don’t need anything from him.”

Quick hits

A couple of sleepers with betting value in Bet365.com Stanley Cup odds: If they can hold down eighth in the West, Detroit is 14-1 and Phoenix, challenging San Jose for the Pacific Division lead, is 20-1 ... Speaking of those ’Yotes, playoff tickets go on sale on Saturday with a bottom price at a reasonable $25 ... The Rangers looked like a team desperate to make the playoffs — and not in a good way — in their 2-1 loss to the Bruins on Sunday. A couple more efforts like that and the Blueshirts can kiss the postseason so long ... Leafs fans shedding a tear over the loss of Stempniak can look to Calgary for some healing. Nik Hagman, who was once threatening to be a 30-goal scorer here, has one in 16 games as a Flame while Matt Stajan has two (and none in his past seven) ... The Bolts turned dolts in a four-game home stand that could have put them in the thick of the playoff race. Instead, Tampa lost all four ... Former Leaf Nik Antropov is at plus 17 with the Thrashers.

The week ahead

Interesting pair of road games for the Stanley Cup champs. The Penguins are in Detroit Monday to face the team they defeated in the Stanley Cup final. Two nights later, it’s off to Washington to meet the Caps, who they upset in a thrilling seven-gamer last spring ... Tuesday, the Thrashers can stay in the thick of the playoff push with a win over the Bruins.

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca


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