The Plot Thickens Before Game 7
Caps' Brashear Suspended, Clark May Return
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
As if Game 7s weren't dramatic enough, subplots of both big and small significance unfolded around the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers yesterday, providing an intriguing backdrop for tonight's decisive first-round contest at Verizon Center.
The biggest development was the suspension of Capitals enforcer Donald Brashear, who was banned six games for two separate transgressions during his team's 5-3 victory in Game 6 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Following an afternoon telephone hearing with league disciplinarian Colin Campbell, Brashear was suspended one game for a confrontation with Colton Orr during warmups, then was handed a five-game suspension for his "blind-side hit" on Rangers fourth-liner Blair Betts. Betts suffered a broken orbital bone and is sidelined indefinitely.
The suspension is the third for Brashear since joining the Capitals as a free agent in July 2006, with both previous bans occurring in 2006-07, the first for three games and the second for one. Brashear's suspension begins tonight and will extend through the next five playoff games. If the Capitals do not play five more playoff games, Brashear would finish the suspension at the beginning of next year's regular season.
"Brashear delivered a shoulder hit to an unsuspecting player," Campbell said in a statement. "It is also my opinion that the hit was delivered late and targeted the head of his opponent, causing significant injury."
Brashear was a scratch in the first two games of the series and has not played more than 4 minutes 23 seconds in the four games since returning to the lineup from a knee injury.
"I'm just disappointed in the decision," Brashear said. "I thought it was just a little too much. I agree with the decision with the warmup incident. But I was very disappointed in the games they gave me for the hit. There's not much I can do. But anybody who knows hockey knows that was a great hit."
It's possible, if not likely, that Brashear will be replaced in the lineup by captain Chris Clark, who has not played since Jan. 27 because of a wrist injury that required surgery.
If Clark does suit up, it will be his first playoff game with the Capitals and first postseason action since he played for Calgary in Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup finals. Clark, who missed most of the past two regular seasons and last spring's playoffs because of injuries, said Coach Bruce Boudreau told him yesterday to "be ready."
"Hopefully I have a little more legs than the Rangers have," Clark said. "And I can add a little more speed. I'm in shape and I've done everything I could because I've been skating the whole time, so there's no problem with that. It's just game shape, that first-game-of-the-year type thing."
A few minutes before Clark spoke about the possibility of returning from a lengthy layoff, across the dressing room at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, defenseman Shaone Morrisonn was answering allegations by the Rangers that he had bitten Brandon Dubinsky during a skirmish behind the Washington goal.
Morrisonn denied biting anyone. But Dubinsky, who reportedly required a tetanus shot and was wearing a bandage on his right wrist, reiterated after the Rangers' practice in Greenburgh, N.Y., that Morrisonn had indeed bitten him.