Morning Skate: Caps lead the way 

February, 7, 2008
After a dismal 6-14-1 start, who figured the Washington Capitals would find their way into first place in the Southeast Division?

Not me!

Nonetheless, the Caps moved into the top spot -- and the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference -- with a 4-3 road win over the Flyers on Wednesday night.

Top sniper Alexander Ovechkin netted his 46th goal in the victory and now leads the league in goals, power-play goals (16), points (73) and shots (304). Right now, I'd rank AO as the favorite to win the Art Ross, Maurice Richard and Hart Trophies. That's quite a hat trick, eh?

If the season ended today, the Capitals would meet the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. The NHL could only hope for such a matchup -- AO v. Sid the Kid -- in the spring. By that time, Crosby should be back from his high ankle sprain.

But I shouldn't get ahead of myself. We have a lot of games between now and the end of the regular season, and the Southeast leader could change just about every day down the stretch.

The Thrashers host the Canucks on Thursday and the Caps face the Hurricanes on Friday. By that time, Washington could drop in the division. Still, with Ovechkin and Co. lighting things up, Friday night should be one of many interesting evenings in the coming weeks and months at the Verizon Center. Cap fans, enjoy!

The Flames on Wednesday signed young stud defenseman Dion Phaneuf to a six-year deal worth $39 million. Phaneuf's annual cap hit will be $6.5 million per season for the duration of the deal.

I was a little surprised Phaneuf didn't do more years. That seems to be in vogue these days. It does, however, seem like good market deal for both sides. If anything, the team might have received a small hometown discount.





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