Injuries Abound for Capitals

Dainius Zubrus's surgically repaired knee has been a source of discomfort for the Capitals center.
Dainius Zubrus's surgically repaired knee has been a source of discomfort for the Capitals center. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Washington Capitals' list of injured players seems to grow each day. But concern among club officials has remained low, due in part to a favorable schedule, which has the Capitals off until Thursday and scheduled to play only twice over the next eight days.

Wingers Matt Bradley (strained leg muscle) and Matt Pettinger (shoulder) returned to practice yesterday; however, they were limited in what they could do and remain on injured reserve.

Center Dainius Zubrus, who has been suffering from discomfort in his surgically repaired knee, left the ice early and limped to the locker room at Ashburn Ice House. Center Brooks Laich also came off before practice was over, while defenseman Ben Clymer and wing Boyd Gordon didn't skate at all, each suffering from a lower body injury. Coach Glen Hanlon would not elaborate on their ailments.

Bradley, who was hurt during training camp, skated for the first hour, but departed before his teammates began a series of spirited skating drills, a strong indication that he's not completely healthy. Asked if he planned to play in the next game, against the Minnesota Wild, Bradley said, "I'll be ready to go Thursday."

Pettinger, out since getting decked in the closing seconds of an exhibition against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sept. 29, was more cautious about his prognosis. He stayed on the ice for the entire practice, but struggled to put any strength behind his shots.

"I'm still a little sore," Pettinger said. "I don't want to put a timetable on it. I did that when I originally injured it, came back [to practice] last week and I wasn't ready. We'll see Wednesday if I'm ready for Thursday. It's not something I want to rush this early in the season."

Pettinger, a 20-goal scorer last season and one of the team's best penalty killers, said his crash-and-bang style won't allow him to play until he's close to 100 percent.

"It's disappointing," he added. "But at the same time, there's 80 more games, and it's more important that I play in as many of those as possible."

The Capitals, and their injured players, have been aided by the schedule. Hanlon gave everyone Sunday off and they don't play again until Thursday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. They host the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday, then don't have a game until the following Wednesday. The light workload is vastly different from last season, when the Capitals had seven games in the opening 12 days, a hectic stretch caused by the two-week Olympic break in February.

As for the other injuries, Hanlon said he expects Clymer, who was hurt Saturday against Carolina, Laich and Zubrus to be in the lineup against the Wild. But the coach was far less certain about Gordon, who played against the Rangers but was sidelined against the Hurricanes.

Zubrus "has had some practices and morning skates that he hasn't skated," Hanlon said. "We're just saying skate until you feel some discomfort and then go [off]. He just wants to skate all the time. I'd likely say stay off, but he wants to skate, which I appreciate."

Capitals Note: Defenseman Brian Pothier, with four assists in two games, is tied with Boston's Zdeno Chara for the NHL lead in scoring among defensemen. Last season, the Capitals didn't have a defenseman collect his fourth point until Steve Eminger did in the sixth game.

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