Washington Capitals defenseman Sergei Gonchar hardly slept Saturday night. Instead, he spent the early hours yesterday morning icing his battered face and nose, the result of what appeared to be an inadvertent cross-check from San Jose center Ron Sutter in Washington's 3-2 loss to the Sharks on Saturday.
Gonchar bled profusely from the cut, which needed 17 stitches, and the bridge of his nose is swollen several inches.
Despite the stitches and the swelling, Gonchar said he will play in Tuesday's game against Anaheim, although he didn't practice yesterday.
Winger Yogi Svejkovsky, who was out with a minor groin injury, also will return Tuesday. The prognosis wasn't as good for defenseman Brendan Witt, who injured his knee after being hit by winger Ron Stern in the first period. Witt likely will miss at least a week.
Gonchar's injury initially appeared severe, but he was at the Capitals' practice facility yesterday morning and will skate with the team today. However, he will wear a face shield on his helmet and said he probably will continue to do so for the duration of his career after suffering several facial injuries.
"My nose is not broken and doesn't hurt that bad, so I'm going to play next game," Gonchar said. "I'm thinking about sticking with a shield because there are so many eye injuries now and concussions, so it will be a good idea to keep it on all the time."
After reviewing replays of the hit on Gonchar, most Capitals believe the contact was accidental--the result of an inadvertent collision. Gonchar was entangled with San Jose forward Dave Lowry and was falling awkwardly when his face struck Sutter's stick. Sutter was not holding his stick high, and he did not appear to initiate any contact with Gonchar. The Capitals do not expect Sutter to be disciplined by the league for the play.
Meanwhile, Witt was limping yesterday and was getting additional treatment. Coach Ron Wilson said the defenseman is definitely out for Tuesday's game and will be reevaluated after that. The Capitals will recall a defenseman from Portland today to replace him.
Alexei Tezikov was recalled earlier this season, and would be the most likely choice, although Jamie Huscroft and Rob Zettler are candidates as well. Svejkovsky's return to the lineup will make veteran Ulf Dahlen a healthy scratch, Wilson said.
Rookie winger Miika Elomo will play in his second NHL game Tuesday. The reason? "Speed, speed and more speed," Wilson said. "Anaheim's a fast team."
Capitals Notes: Referee Richard Trottier apologized to the Capitals' coaching staff for erring on a penalty call in the opening minutes Saturday, sources said. Left wing James Black was called for a penalty when San Jose defenseman Bob Rouse had dragged down right wing Richard Zednik in front. The Sharks scored the opening goal on the resulting power play. . . . The Capitals have yet to score first in a game this season. In the preseason their only two losses came when they yielded the first goal and traditionally NHL teams that fall behind early do not have success. "I want us to start the game with more of a sense of urgency," Wilson said. "We can get our defensemen jumping into the play in the first half of a game. At the end of games, the last 25-30 minutes, we're jumping into the play when we're supposed to be tired. I want us to start a little more proactive than reactive." . . . In today's practice, the Capitals will work extensively on their penalty killing--which has been a woeful 15 for 24 this season. They will watch video and hold a meeting on the matter, soliciting feedback from the players. . . . Goalie Olaf Kolzig is giving $1 to Children's Hospital for each save he makes, $50 for each win and $100 for each shutout. That amount is being matched by DC 101 morning disc jockey Elliot Segal and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. Kolzig also is giving 10 season tickets for each home game to patients at Children's Hospital, and left wing Chris Simon is donating 10 tickets for each home game this season to the Boys and Girls Club.