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Former Capitals star Alexander Semin breezes back into town with Hurricanes

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Sports,NHL,Capitals,Brian McNally

Semin makes first visit since leaving D.C.

For the last six years, former Capitals right wing Alexander Semin was one of the game's elite goal scorers. He was also part of the Young Guns -- that group of dynamic skill players, led by star winger Alex Ovechkin, that made hockey relevant in Washington.

But Semin also was a complicated contradiction with his teammates and with fans. He was hurt often, prone to maddening bouts of inconsistency and refused almost all media interviews -- and yet he was prodigiously productive with 187 goals in his final six seasons here. There were playoff series in which he was brilliant and others in which he was an afterthought.

On Tuesday night, Semin returns to Washington for the first time since signing a one-year, $7 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes over the summer. By last January, it was clear his time with the Caps was coming to an end. Both sides were looking for a change -- Semin to a team that would better employ his specific skill set and Washington to better locker room chemistry both on and off the ice.

Up next
Hurricanes at Capitals
When » Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where » Verizon Center
TV » CSN
Notes » Washington signed defenseman John Erskine to a two-year, $3.925 million contract extension and goalie Braden Holtby to a two-year, $3.7 million deal Monday. ... Center Nicklas Backstrom (illness) and winger Jason Chimera (lower-body injury) are questionable for Tuesday's game. Defenseman Mike Green (groin) said he will play after missing the last three games.

"[Semin] just want to show up and tell them, like, it was a mistake," friend and former teammate Alex Ovechkin said. "Every normal player will do it. I think it's going to be good night for both teams."

But Semin won't exactly be welcomed with open arms by everyone. Former teammates have long acknowledged he was one of the game's elite talents. But they often resented a perceived lack of work ethic for a man to whom the game sometimes came so easy. Whether that's a fair assessment is unclear, but it's one enough of them shared over the years.

"Some nights you didn't even know if [Semin] was gonna come to the rink," Caps forward Troy Brouwer said. "It's tough to play alongside guys like those because you don't know what you're gonna get out of 'em."

And the 28-year-old Russian did so few English-language interviews -- or translated interviews for that matter -- that it was hard for him to defend against the charges. He had to let his numbers do the talking. Semin ranked 14th in franchise history in points (408), 18th in assists (197) and fifth in goals (197).

Washington has filled his absence at right wing by moving Ovechkin there for the first time. He has eight goals, Brouwer has eight and Joel Ward has five. The Caps also traded for center Mike Ribeiro and have received better production (six goals, 15 assists) at the more important position. But Semin's departure (and Ovechkin's move) resulted in a gaping hole at left wing, where Jason Chimera has no goals this season.

"Obviously we've played with [Semin] and know how dangerous he is as a player," defenseman Mike Green said. "We have to make sure we shut him down -- bottom line.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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