For for­ward Au­coin, tim­ing is ev­ery­thing

Son makes play­off run more spe­cial

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY STEPHENWHYNO

Born Feb. 29, Bray­den Michael Au­coin won’t re­mem­ber his first few months. But the son of Keith and Mau­reen will have an un­beat­able story to tell one day.

“When my son’s older, he knows he was born when I was in the NHL,” beam­ing fa­ther Keith Au­coin said.

What had been an im­pres­sive mi­nor league sea­son for Au­coin has turned into a mirac­u­lous tale of not only his sur­pris­ing as­cent to Washington Cap­i­tals reg­u­lar but his im­pec­ca­ble tim­ing. Au­coin ob­vi­ously knew for a while that his fam­ily would be grow­ing, but months ago the jour­ney­man for­ward couldn’t have pre­dicted be­ing a part of an NHL play­off run.

“You try not to think about it. You try to just play. But you know you’re get­ting old and you want to get an­other chance,” Au­coin, 33, said. “I fi­nally got the call, and I’m tak­ing ad­van­tage of it.”

Au­coin has spent much of his pro ca­reer in the Amer­i­can Hockey League, putting up num­bers that likely will get him into that league’s Hall of Fame once he re­tires.

He is more than a point-a-game player at that level, spend­ing the past four years fill­ing the stat sheet for the Her­shey Bears, the Caps’ top af­fil­i­ate.

But Au­coin hasn’t been able to make his cups of cof­fee in the NHL last very long. Wed­nes­day was his 90th NHL game in a ca­reer fea­tur­ing Caps and Carolina Hur­ri­canes cameos, and his first with three points.

One thing seems cer­tain go­ing into Washington’s final 12 games of the reg­u­lar sea­son: Au­coin isn’t go­ing any­where. That’s a re­lief for a guy who put a lot of miles on his Chevy Ta­hoe in re­cent months mak­ing the trip back and forth from Her­shey and he talked about how Mau­reen and their French bull­dog, CAP­I­TALS AT WIN­NIPEG Fri­day: TV: Ra­dio: big­ger than his size.

“We all know he’s not a big guy. But he’s smart player,” Caps coach Dale Hunter said. “He’s a real good play­maker. He sees the ice well and cre­ates a lot for us.”

Au­coin is an of­fen­sive spe­cial­ist, to say the least, and he might be a key cog on the Caps’ power play down the stretch, too.

He was part of a Her­shey unit that clicked at a rate of roughly 30 per­cent, thanks in large part to Au­coin’s abil­ity to cre­ate space and find teammates.

“He used to play power play in the Amer­i­can League for his whole life and he’s one of the best at it in that league. He’s prob­a­bly the best at it,” cen­ter Mathieu Per­reault said. “He knows what he’s do­ing out there, and you can see it the past few games on the power play.”

Au­coin knows what he’s do­ing in the of­fen­sive zone no mat­ter the sit­u­a­tion.

On the fourth line with the likes of Jeff Halpern, Joel Ward and Mike Knu­ble, Au­coin is a whiz at pro­tect­ing the puck along the boards and not turn­ing it over. Put him out there with Alex Ovechkin and other skilled play­ers and he can thread a per­fect pass to set up a scor­ing chance.

More than a few around the Caps men­tioned that Au­coin uses a long stick for a player of his stature, which

DAL­LAS | John Wall will not be traded Thurs­day. But the fate of ev­ery other player in a Washington Wiz­ards uni­form is any­one’s guess.

Thurs­day is the NBA trad­ing dead­line, a day when many teams will dras­ti­cally or sub­tly al­ter their ros­ters in an ef­fort to make a play­off push, build for the fu­ture or sim­ply dump salary.

The Wiz­ards play­ers whose names have been men­tioned in trade talks know who they are, and each is han­dling the un­known out­come in his own way.

Trevor Booker, 24, is a player in de­mand. Gen­er­ously listed at 6-foot-8, he’s a de­fen­sive stop­per who can score when needed, play small or power for­ward, and guard a 7-foot cen­ter with­out a sec­ond thought. Booker han­dles the im­pend­ing trade dead­line by not think­ing — or talk­ing — about it.

“We just worry about play­ing bas­ket­ball,” Booker said. “We can’t worry about [be­ing traded] and let it af­fect our game. We just have to keep go­ing out and get­ting bet­ter. I’m not sure what other peo­ple, my teammates, are think­ing [but] we’re not talk­ing about it.”

For An­dray Blatche, it’s a slightly dif­fer­ent sce­nario. The Wiz­ards are seek­ing to trade the 6-foot-11 for­ward, but league sources in­di­cate not many teams are in­ter­ested. Blatche, 25, hasn’t lived up to ex­pec­ta­tions since sign­ing a con­tract ex­ten­sion two years ago, and he hears the dis­ap­point­ment in the boos from home­town fans.

“It’s a busi­ness,” Blatche said of the pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing traded. “That’s some­thing I’m not stressed about or los­ing sleep over. I’ve been here for seven years. I know that comes with the job. If a trade was to hap­pen for any­body on this team, ev­ery­body knows not to take it per­sonal, just go to the next team and work hard.”

Asked where he ex­pected to be Thurs­day, Blatche laughed, looked over at guard Nick Young and asked, “Where will we be Thurs­day? New Or­leans? That’s where I’ll be un­til I find out any­thing else.”

Young, 26, is also the sub­ject of trade ru­mors. The 6-foot-7 shoot­ing guard isn’t overly ver­sa­tile, and he won’t make an NBA All-de­fen­sive Team any­time soon. But when his shot is fall­ing, he can score 25 points a night with­out break­ing a sweat. Young broke into his sig­na­ture wide-eyed grin when asked where he ex­pects to be Thurs­day.

“I’ll wake up, right? I’ll be in my ho­tel and watch­ing some TV. In New Or­leans. Maybe. I don’t know. It’s crazy,” Young said. “I’ve been crack­ing jokes with ev­ery­body be­cause it hap­pened last year. I joked that this year, some­body’s go­ing to be gone by half­time. I’ve seen it all.”

Last year, the Wiz­ards traded Kirk Hin­rich and Hil­ton Armstrong for Jor­dan Craw­ford, Mau­rice Evans and Mike Bibby dur­ing half­time of a game Feb. 23.

Only Wall has been deemed by the Wiz­ards as un­touch­able in the fren­zied trade mar­ket.

“You never know what’s go­ing on, that’s the tough part about it,” Wall said. “I think cer­tain guys are wor­ried, ner­vous about it. It’s some­thing you have to deal with and just move for­ward. If some­body new comes in, you just got to keep the chem­istry.”

Asked if he would pre­fer to have a few new teammates by Thurs­day, Wall, as ex­pected of a point guard and leader, gave the ap­pro­pri­ately diplo­matic re­sponse.

“You en­joy play­ing with the teammates you have, and you know it’s a part of the busi­ness,” he said. “You don’t want to see peo­ple go, but you know it might be the best sit­u­a­tion for you and your or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

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