Caps' Clymer Makes Best of the Situation

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

When Ben Clymer signed a three-year contract with the Washington Capitals after a breakout season in 2005-06, things couldn't have been any better for the checking-line wing. Suddenly he was financially set, and he had job security, too.

That all changed last season. Clymer was asked to move from forward to defense in training camp and suffered an abdominal injury the day before the season opener. Then after 12 games, he was switched back to forward when the experiment backfired.

In retrospect, Clymer said, he should have had surgery much sooner. But instead he continued to play hurt while his offensive production and playing time suffered as a result. So by the time he had a season-ending operation in March, he was frustrated and confused and had begun to question his future with the organization.

Six months later, not much has changed. But the feisty 29-year-old Minnesota native said he's determined to make the best of a difficult situation in training camp, where he's among a handful of checkers battling for two or three spots on the Capitals' third and fourth lines.

"From my standpoint," Clymer said yesterday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, "all I can control is what I do here every day. I try to do that, go home and try to get ready for the next day. It sounds simple and stupid, but if I sat there and worried about it, I'd be in a padded room somewhere."

Clymer said he entered the summer expecting to be traded after posting seven goals, 13 assists and a plus-minus rating of minus-17 in 66 games. But when he wasn't dealt, that only added to the confusion he felt about his status in Washington.

"That was my mind-set over the summer," he said. "I don't know what their plans are for me. I'm in a weird situation. I wouldn't wish it on anyone else."

Donald Brashear, Matt Pettinger and Boyd Gordon appear to have locked up spots on the Capitals' third and fourth lines. That leaves Clymer, Brian Sutherby, Brooks Laich, Matt Bradley, among others, battling for the remaining spots. (It could be even tighter if captain Chris Clark is assigned to one of those lines.)

Clymer, though, would appear to be a leading candidate to secure one of the positions. He has had a strong showing in training camp thus far and scored in the preseason opener against the Hurricanes in Carolina on Sunday.

"He looks like he's healthy again after playing on one leg for almost the whole year," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said. "He's a veteran that can read the situation. He knows he's battling for ice time and for a job."

If Clymer doesn't earn a spot on the team, it's possible he could be traded to a club seeking reliable checking-line wing who possesses agitator qualities and is willing to scrap when provoked. He's due to earn $1 million this season and $1.1 million next season.

"My focus is to show up, work hard and keep quiet and see what happens," Clymer said. "Some days it's hard to not be negative about what's going on. But I'm just going try to take it in stride and turn this into a positive, because that's the right thing to do."

Note: Nineteen players were sent to Hershey, Pa., of the American Hockey League today, including Chevy Chase native Steve Werner. That leaves 20 forwards, 12 defensemen and five goalies in camp.

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