MacDonald back on ice, improving

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA, Times Staff Writer
Published December 27, 2007

WASHINGTON - Lightning center Craig MacDonald returned to action Wednesday, six days after he was hit in the mouth by a puck and sustained nine fractured teeth and needed about 50 stitches to his tongue, lips and gums.

MacDonald played with a plastic face shield and logged 8:31 of ice time, playing on the penalty kill and winning four of five face-offs on the fourth line.

"It's gotten better every day," he said. "I really wanted to be out there playing. I've already watched enough games this year, and if there was any way I could be out there playing I was going to do it."

ALL-STAR UPDATE: Heading into the final week of All-Star Game fan balloting, center Vinny Lecavalier remained second among Eastern Conference forwards with 198,922 votes, trailing only leading vote getter Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh.

Marty St. Louis ranks 21st among forwards (41,547) and injured defenseman Dan Boyle is 10th among defensemen (92,050).

Fans can vote through Wednesday on NHL.com.

HLAVAC TO FOURTH LINE: Wing Jan Hlavac, signed in the offseason to add scoring punch to Brad Richards' line, played on the fourth line and played a season-low three minutes. His season average was 16:31.

Hlavac hasn't scored in 17 games and has two assists in that span.

Boudreau takes over without tag:Bruce Boudreau became the Capitals' coach when the team dropped the "interim" tag from his title. The Capitals are 8-5-3 under Boudreau.

"The goal when you take the job is to be here a long time," Boudreau said. "My job is to win and then reevaluate everything at the end of the year. Until further notice, I'm here."

Boudreau was promoted from the club's American Hockey League affiliate on Thanksgiving Day, replacing the fired Glen Hanlon. At that point, the Capitals were last in the NHL with a 6-14-1 record.

General manager George McPhee declined to reveal the length of Boudreau's contract.

ODDS AND ENDS: Defenseman Brad Lukowich returned after missing two games with a shoulder injury. He played 19:30. ... Goaltender Marc Denis was a healthy scratch. ... The Lightning won just 39 percent of faceoffs (19-for-49). ... Boyle traveled with the team and is scheduled to see hand surgeon Dr. Thomas J. Graham in Baltimore.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.