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Hamrlik more of a liability than asset, Caps coach says

Thursday - 2/23/2012, 4:56pm  ET

Caps.jpg
Washington Capitals' Roman Hamrlik (44) checks Florida Panthers' Matt Bradley (22) in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Friday, Feb. 17, 2012. The Capitals won 2-1. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Ben Raby, wtop.com

ARLINGTON, Va. - Shortly after signing with the Washington Capitals last July, Roman Hamrlik spoke of the chance to win a Stanley Cup for the first time in his 19-year NHL career. Nearly eight months later, Hamrlik's goals, and perhaps those of the team he plays for, are far more modest.

"Hopefully I [can] stay here and make the team a lot better," Hamrlik told reporters a day after he was a healthy scratch in a 5-2 loss at Ottawa. "Hopefully make the playoffs and stay here. I don't have reason to leave."

Hamrlik was expected to bring stability to Washington's blueline, but according to head coach Dale Hunter, the Czech defenseman has been more of a liability during the team's recent struggles.

"He's taken some penalties and we need him playing better defensively," Hunter said. "He's a defensive defenseman and he's been involved in -- the way we do the marking of scoring chances -- he's been involved in them, too many of them, and that's why he was sitting out."

In Monday's 5-0 loss in Carolina, Hamrlik took an elbowing penalty just 3:29 into the first period. Twelve seconds later, Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk scored on the power play and the Carolina rout was on.

Hamrlik said Thursday that he has not spoken with Hunter regarding his being scratched and that he did not know what was involved in Hunter's decision.

When it was brought to Hamrlik's attention that Hunter was disappointed in some of the penalties he has taken, the 37-year-old shot back.

"You should ask him about the penalties because when he played I think he made lots of penalties… so he should know better. This is the game. Guys go on emotion time. I know I take bad penalty, but if it's that reason I didn't play that's his decision."

Hamrlik has two goals and ten points in 55 games this season and is signed through 2012-13. Hunter would like to see the 6 foot 2 inch, 210-pound Hamrlik do more to challenge opposing forwards.

"He's backing in way too much and letting the wave come through and they're hitting the second tier. So he's making a few mistakes and [watching] video and sitting out is a humbling experience, we've all been through it if you've played hockey… you just have to go to practice and work hard like he did today and watch video and learn from it."

Hunter put the Capitals through a 60-minute practice Thursday following a 1-3-0 road trip which kept Washington on the outside of a playoff position.

"The road trip we just had didn't go our way," Hamrlik said. "Last two games we got outworked, we got outplayed. They scored big goals on the power plays. Just doesn't go our way. We have to find a way to win more hockey games otherwise we're going to be out of the playoffs. Everybody knows that. Nobody's going to help us. We have 20 guys in our locker room. That's our destiny. We have to find a way to win hockey games."

The preseason Stanley Cup favorites have lost three straight games and six of seven overall (1-5-1). They have allowed the first goal in six straight games and fallen behind 2-0 in three straight games and trailed 4-0 in the last two games.

"It's a lot tougher," defenseman Karl Alzner said of playing from behind. "You start taking a few more chances, the other teams plays a little more confident… Teams are taking advantage of our slow starts right now and we're a little too fragile right now to bounce back right away and that's one of the frustrating parts for us."

The Capitals have played 340 minutes of hockey over their last six games and have trailed for 279:57, been tied for 73:30 and led for just 6:33.

Catch the Capitals and Montreal Canadiens Friday at 7:00 p.m. Coverage begins with Caps Pregame at 6:45 on Federal News Radio, WFED 1500AM and online at www.wfed.com.

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