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Varlamov put on IR; Neuvirth is likely to start

By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 7, 2010; D10

With the start of the regular season one day away, the Washington Capitals placed goalie Semyon Varlamov on injured reserve.

Varlamov, who is recovering from an undisclosed injury, could be available for Friday's season opener in Atlanta because the club made the move retroactive to his last appearance on Sept. 22, but that scenario appears a long shot given he has not practiced fully since early last week. Indications are instead Michal Neuvirth will start against the Thrashers, with Dany Sabourin as the backup.

The Capitals play their home opener on Saturday against New Jersey, and if Varlamov remains unable to go, Coach Bruce Boudreau must decide if he'll start Neuvirth on consecutive nights or turn to Sabourin, who has played in 57 NHL games but spent all last season in the AHL.

"I don't know. I doubt it, but who can tell," Boudreau said when asked if Varlamov would be ready to play by Saturday. "We'll see how tomorrow's practice goes, and then we'll take him to Atlanta and see how he goes in Atlanta, and then we'll make decisions. It's a decision we don't have to make until Saturday, so I would rather not."

The goalie competition between Varlamov and Neuvirth, both 22, was among the more intriguing developments during training camp. Varlamov went 15-4-6 with a 2.55 goals against average last season but has missed considerable time with injuries, including a sprained left knee, a strained groin muscle and a minor sprain in his left MCL. The MCL sprain occurred during a rehab start in Hershey in early January.

Neuvirth, meantime, has been preparing as if he'll be the starter on Friday. Neuvirth played in 17 games last season, going 9-4 with a 2.75 GAA.

"We still got a practice tomorrow, but it looks like Varly is not going to be healthy for Friday, so it looks like I'm going to get the chance," Neuvirth said following practice on Wednesday morning. "Obviously I want to do my best."

Birthday surprise

Rookie center Marcus Johansson got a surprise gift for his 20th birthday courtesy of Alex Ovechkin in the locker room after practice, and this one really left an impression. As Johansson was speaking to the media, Ovechkin sneaked up behind the first-round pick and presented his face with a towel covered in shaving cream.

Caught completely off-guard, the young Swede wasn't quick enough to avoid getting splattered over all as Ovechkin, with a mischievous smile, yelled, "Happy birthday!"

"Not too bad, actually," Johansson said when asked if his eyes were stinging. "I think I had time to close my eyes before, but my ear is pretty full."

Johansson was among the final players to make it through final cuts after the Capitals selected him in the first round (24th overall) of last year's draft. He was competing with Mathieu Perreault, a fan favorite last season, for one of the last spots.

Oilers loan out player

Veteran NHL defenseman Sheldon Souray has been loaned to the Hershey Bears by the Edmonton Oilers, the AHL team announced.

In an agreement similar to the one the Capitals used to send Michael Nylander to play for the Rochester Americans (AHL), Souray joins the Bears, but Edmonton retains his rights and can recall him at any time. Edmonton will pay the bulk of his $4.5 million salary.

Souray, who has two years left on his contract with a salary cap hit of $5.4 million, asked to be traded from Edmonton after his relationship with the Oilers soured at the end of last season. . . .

Forward Andrew Gordon, who did not make the final roster, cleared waivers and is eligible to be called up from Hershey without being subjected to re-entry waivers.

Staff writer Katie Carrera contributed to this report.

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