Pettinger Out as Caps Set to Open

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 4, 2006

The Washington Capitals put left wing Matt Pettinger on injured reserve and sent center Alexandre Giroux to the minor leagues yesterday, thus finalizing their 23-man roster for opening night.

Pettinger, a 20-goal scorer last season and one of the Capitals' best penalty killers, was hurt in the closing seconds of Friday's preseason game against the Philadelphia Flyers. General Manager George McPhee described the injury as "upper body" and said Pettinger will be reevaluated on a weekly basis.

It's the first significant injury for the Capitals, who open the season against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden tomorrow.

Six NHL teams, meantime, will kick off the 2006-07 season tonight. The Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes will raise their championship banner before hosting the Buffalo Sabres; the Toronto Maple Leafs host their Ontario rivals, the Ottawa Senators; and the Colorado Avalanche host the Dallas Stars.

Although Pettinger's injury is the most serious, he's not the only Capital whose health is of concern as the opener looms.

Dainius Zubrus returned to practice but continued to experience some discomfort in his surgically repaired knee. The veteran center said he plans to play tomorrow, but probably won't know for sure until after today's practice. If Zubrus, who played in only one preseason game, is unable to suit up against the Rangers, his absence will create a huge hole on top scorer Alex Ovechkin's line and on the power play.

"I'm better, a little bit sore, but better," Zubrus said during the team's media luncheon. "I skipped ice the last two days, gave my knee a little bit of rest. I want to be ready to play, but I don't want to overdo it because it's still sensitive."

Also yesterday, Ovechkin and grinder Matt Bradley left the ice only minutes into the 90-minute practice at Verizon Center with undisclosed ailments; second-line winger Alexander Semin missed practice because of a dental appointment.

Ovechkin afterward said he was "okay, 100 percent." The Capitals are often overly cautious when it comes to their 21-year-old franchise winger.

Ovechkin, Bradley and Semin are expected to play tomorrow, according to team officials.

"We have a few bumps and bruises, but I would expect most of these guys will be back on the ice" today, McPhee said. "I don't expect to have too many players out of the lineup Thursday. We may have a player or two, but we're in pretty good shape."

Pettinger's injury extended the audition for the players fighting for the final roster spot.

Kris Beech appears to have secured a spot, at least for now; how long Rico Fata and Jakub Klepis remain in Washington likely will depend on their performances. One of them probably will be demoted to the Hershey (Pa.) Bears of the American Hockey League when Pettinger returns.

Giroux cleared waivers yesterday and has joined the Bears.

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