Chris Clark Is Cleared to Play, but Return to Capitals' Lineup Is Uncertain
Thursday, April 16, 2009
The Washington Capitals received some good news yesterday before the opening of their Eastern Conference first-round series when captain Chris Clark received medical clearance to play. But it's unclear when, or if, Clark will return to the lineup.
"There's a chance anything can happen," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "When you lose, you make changes."
Clark, 33, missed the past 34 games with a wrist injury, and the team originally expected him to not be available until the later rounds of the postseason. But Clark is hopeful to get back on the ice after he experienced no pain when taking slap shots for the first time yesterday morning.
"Range of motion is there, but it's still a little stiff," said Clark, who wears a hard plastic brace on his arm. "I think it's going to be like that for a while because of the immobility because of the cast and everything. But there's no lingering pain."
In addition to his leadership, Clark provides an extra level of grit that Washington often searches for in its lineup. Clark, when at his best, is a pesky presence in the opposing crease, creating traffic and screening the goaltender.
Clark has played just 50 games over the past two seasons. Last season, a groin tendon injury limited him to just 18 games. The wrist injury gave Clark time to strengthen the groin muscle, though, and he said he is the healthiest he has been since the 2006-07 season.
"I would definitely be a little bit rusty," Clark said. "But I've been skating with the guys for the past week [to help] me with the timing. So it's just a matter of jumping back in it eventually."
Avery Does His Thing
Although Boudreau asked after the game of the New York Rangers' Sean Avery, "Was he out there?" the forward's presence was undeniable.
Avery appeared to single out Mike Green early on, pursuing him after whistles and chirping in the defenseman's ear. Green responded with a few board-rattling checks. According to Green, Avery tripped him on a shift seconds before Scott Gomez scored the Rangers' first goal. Later, Avery knocked Green over the boards by the Capitals' bench.
"I liked it," Green said when asked about being targeted by Avery. "It makes me play stronger."
But Avery was most visible with 1 minute 30 seconds remaining, when he took a swipe at goaltender José Theodore, drawing a crowd around the net and prompting the Capitals netminder to smack Avery on the head with his stick.
Rangers Flex Power Play
Entering last night's contest, Rangers Coach John Tortorella warned about the damage the Capitals' vaunted power play could inflict. Ultimately, though, the Rangers' special teams prevailed.
New York and its top-ranked penalty kill, which held opponents without a goal on 87.8 percent of their power plays in the regular season, allowed two goals on seven Capitals power plays.
But surprisingly, the Rangers scored two power-play goals of their own on four chances -- quite an accomplishment for a team that finished second to last on the power play in the regular season with just a 13.9 percent conversion rate. . . .
Dan Craig, the NHL's ice-making specialist, was in attendance yesterday to help the Verizon Center crew get the sheet in top shape after a quick turnaround following Tuesday night's concert by the Dead.
Staff writer Tarik El-Bashir contributed to this report.