Capitals Notebook

Washington Capitals Cut Anton Gustafsson, 14 Others

Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said of 19-year-old center Anton Gustafsson, above:
Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said of 19-year-old center Anton Gustafsson, above: "We think he's going to be a real good player. He's just young right now." (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 21, 2009

The Washington Capitals made their first big round of training camp cuts Sunday, reassigning 15 players, including center Anton Gustafsson, a 2008 first-round draft pick whom Coach Bruce Boudreau described as talented but raw.

"The only thing I saw is that he needs work and we have better players," Boudreau said. "He needs a year or two of experience at this level. He's only played in a Division B men's league [in Sweden] last year."

Gustafsson, 19, appeared in only one preseason game, skating 7 minutes 14 seconds in the Capitals' 4-3 overtime victory in Buffalo on Thursday. He registered two shots on goal, lost four of five faceoffs and did not factor into the scoring.

"Whether he's in [Hershey in the American Hockey League] or goes back home, [he] knows what's expected of him," Boudreau said. "In the past he's been here for two days and got hurt, [then] two days and got hurt again. We think he's going to be a real good player. He's just young right now."

Defenseman-turned-forward Joe Finley and goalie prospect Braden Holtby were also among the cuts, which came one week into camp. Gustafsson and many of the reassigned players are set to report to the Hershey Bears' training camp, which begins Monday.

There are 42 players remaining on Washington's roster, which must be trimmed to 23 by Oct. 1.

Bourque Denies Trade Talk

Prospect Chris Bourque denied a Boston Globe report suggesting he has been assured by the Capitals that he'll be traded to another NHL team if he doesn't make Washington's opening-night roster.

"That's the first I've heard of it," Bourque said. "I don't know how that came about. It's kind of upsetting [because] it kind of makes it look like I'm trying to start rumors."

Bourque, a 2004 second-round draft pick, has spent the past four seasons playing for the Bears, appearing in only 12 games with the Capitals. The forward was among the final players cut last September and is battling a handful of other hopefuls for one of the remaining spots this season.

"Me and Chris have never talked about" being traded, Boudreau said. "It's always been about making this team. . . . If that doesn't happen, who knows what's going to happen."

Fehr Nears Return

Winger Eric Fehr, who is recovering from offseason surgery on both shoulders, is expected to take another physical this week. If he receives medical clearance, he could begin participating fully in practices by next week and possibly play in a game during the first week of October.

"He's skating and shooting," Boudreau said. "He's just not cleared. Hopefully by the end of the month he'll be ready to participate in [contact] workouts." . . .

Goaltender José Theodore is expected to start Monday's preseason home opener against Buffalo and play the entire game. He'll be backed up by Semyon Varlamov.

Many of the Capitals' stars, such as Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Mike Green, are expected to suit up for the first time this exhibition season against the Sabres. Brooks Laich wore an assistant captain's "A" on his jersey for the first time Saturday night in Chicago. "I don't speak any different in the room or do anything different on the ice," he said. "If they see that as leadership, then great."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company