Morrisonn Is Ready To Make His Return

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 29, 2006

Washington Capitals defenseman Shaone Morrisonn hopes to return tonight against the New Jersey Devils after missing the past four games with mononucleosis, he said yesterday.

Morrisonn began experiencing fatigue, headaches, sore throat and a fever about a month ago, but the viral infection wasn't diagnosed until Saturday, a day after severe headaches forced him to miss Washington's previous game against the Devils.

"I've had it for a while," Morrisonn said. "I had been feeling terrible, no energy and my body was sore. But I'm not at risk. My spleen hasn't enlarged, which is good. There's no medicine you can take for it, so I just have to get lots of rest and battle through it."

Morrisonn, 24, skated for the first time in a week yesterday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. He said he's looking forward to returning, but concedes he's not sure what to expect at Continental Airlines Arena.

"I didn't really have much of a Christmas," he said. "I slept a lot and spent a lot of time going to the doctor to get checked up on, just to make sure everything was normal. But I'm starting to feel a little better. I felt okay out there. My legs were a little stiff. But I can help the team by playing."

The Capitals have lost two games in a row and four of their past five. The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two of three, including last Friday's 4-1 victory in Washington.

Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said he can't afford to ease Morrisonn back into a lineup that's already missing defensemen John Erskine and Bryan Muir, each of whom has a broken bone in his foot.

"We're going to put him back in there with the anticipation of having him play a lot of minutes," Hanlon said of Morrisonn, who is averaging 21 minutes 3 seconds of ice time, the second-highest total on the team. "But if Mo comes to us halfway through and says, 'Hey look, I'm tired,' and we're watching his play and he's not getting the job done, we'll likely back off a little bit."

Hanlon also indicated that he may split up Morrisonn and Brian Pothier, the Capitals' top defensive pairing, as he mulls ways to better distribute the team's talent on the blueline.

"We're talking about evening up our groups instead of loading up on the top end," Hanlon said. "It's something we're considering. As far as who plays with whom, we're still throwing some ideas around."

Capitals Notes: Defenseman Timo Helbling is expected to be recalled from Hershey (Pa.) of the American Hockey League today, while defenseman Jeff Schultz and right wing Jonas Johansson will return to the Bears. . . . Richard Zednik, who underwent abdominal surgery earlier this month, said he hopes to begin skating on his own in about two weeks.

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