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One Forward's Out, One's Not

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 14, 2009

The opening day of training camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex was dominated by story lines involving two veteran forwards: the temporary loss of Tomas Fleischmann and the awkward return of Michael Nylander.

Fleischmann could miss all of camp and the first few weeks of the season, the team announced Sunday, because of a blood clot in his leg, a condition that was discovered after he returned to his native Czech Republic this summer.

Fleischmann, who scored 19 goals last season as the Capitals' second-line left wing, is able to skate lightly on his own and work out. But he is not expected to participate in full-contact drills until early October at the earliest, according to Coach Bruce Boudreau.

"We were taken by surprise by it when it happened," Boudreau said. "But we're actually pleasantly surprised that he's going to be able to compete with us in the first week of the season, when we thought it might be a lot longer. So it's good news for what it was, because these blood clots can be very serious."

A team official said Fleischmann's condition is deep vein thrombosis and that it's believed it occurred on the winger's cross-Atlantic flight home following the Capitals' elimination from the playoffs. Fleischmann, who missed three games with mononucleosis last season, was not available to reporters.

Although the Capitals hope Fleischmann will return to practice during the first week of the season, he might not be ready to play in a game until the second or third week. And it could be even longer until he's fully up to speed.

"I'm thinking that right now," Boudreau said. "I don't know what his training status is. He looks pretty strong to me. And he looks like he's in fine shape, like he's been working out. He's just not able to work with anybody [and have] contact in case he gets cut or hit. He's on blood thinners, so that could be a dangerous thing."

With Fleischmann sidelined, Boudreau acknowledged that there's an opportunity for a prospect or minor leaguer to earn a spot on the opening night roster. Boudreau was not specific, but it would seem that the spot could go to Chris Bourque, Alexandre Giroux or Quintin Laing.

"We've talked to some individuals [about] how this might be a great chance for them to stick with the team even if it's for a little while to show what they [can] do," Boudreau added. "If they start off great, who knows what can happen?"

Something else that remains unresolved is the status of Nylander, a player the team has been trying to trade for the better part of a year.

One day after General Manager George McPhee said Nylander was seeking a deal to play this season in Europe, the 36-year-old Nylander seemed to contradict that notion, saying he wants to remain in the NHL and is looking forward to the start of the season.

"I'm coming here with the intention of playing for the Capitals," Nylander said. "I just have to do what I've done for the past 15 years in this league. Sooner or later, it's going to convince somebody. I'm just going to work on my game and come in here with a good attitude -- look forward, stay positive. As I said, I'm 10 pounds heavier than I normally [am]. I worked really hard this summer, and I feel great."

The Capitals owe Nylander $8.5 million over this season and next, but the player has a no-movement clause in his contract this season and therefore controls his own destiny. The clause, however, expires after this season.

Asked whether he would sign off on a deal in which he is loaned to a team outside of the NHL, Nylander said: "I'm not ready for that. I say it again: I have a two-year deal here, and I'm looking forward for the season to start."

Capitals Notes: Goaltending prospect Braden Holtby suffered a groin muscle strain. He is day-to-day. . . . Winger Eric Fehr, who underwent surgery on both shoulders in May, participated in skating and shooting drills but was held out of contact drills. He said he hopes to receive full medical clearance in two weeks.

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