The trainer's room at Piney Orchard Ice Arena has been unusually busy in recent days, and as a result, the Washington Capitals could find themselves significantly short-handed tonight against the Flyers.
The team likely will be without at least three key forwards: Matt Bradley, Dainius Zubrus and Petr Sykora. The injuries come at a time when the Capitals are attempting to end a 14-game regular season winless streak in Philadelphia.
Bradley and Zubrus suffered groin muscle strains during Saturday's loss in Tampa. Both attempted to practice through their pain yesterday. But Bradley, a penalty-killing specialist, skated off midway through the session, and Zubrus, one of the Capitals' most talented and versatile players, wasn't far behind. Sykora also didn't last, apparently suffering from back spasms.
Because of the injuries, the Capitals (4-7-0) will make at least two roster moves today. Defenseman Nolan Yonkman, whose two-week conditioning stint with the American Hockey League's Hershey (Pa.) Bears ended yesterday, is scheduled to rejoin the Capitals. And left wing Tomas Fleischmann is expected to be recalled from the Bears.
"For us, it's not the worst thing in the world," Capitals Coach Glen Hanlon said. "It's the worst thing for the player getting injured, and you never want to see that happen. But we want to see all of our young players play up here. And I would rather see them [promoted from the minor leagues] because of some nagging injury rather than" as a replacement for a player who was demoted.
Hanlon reiterated that he wants promotions from Hershey to be based on a merit system, and Fleischmann has earned the opportunity. After going scoreless in the Bears' season opener, then being scratched from the lineup in the second game, Fleischmann has recorded at least one point in the nine contests since. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound Czech native, who came to Washington in the 2004 trade that sent Robert Lang to Detroit, leads the Bears with 4 goals, 13 points and a plus-minus rating of plus-3.
It's anticipated Fleischmann and Yonkman will join the team in Philadelphia, where the Capitals have gone 0-13-1 since 1998. The Flyers will be without center Keith Primeau, who is out indefinitely with a concussion.
Hanlon could have avoided promoting a prospect by simply switching Ben Clymer from defense to forward. But the coach said he wants to give Clymer five games on the blueline before moving him again. Clymer was signed by the Capitals as a forward, but has played the past two games -- and three total -- on defense, his natural position.
"We won't do it," Hanlon said. "It's not fair to the player to be moving back and forth."
Capitals Notes: Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby was named NHL rookie of the month, edging Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, among others. Crosby led all rookies in October with 14 points (two goals, 12 assists); Ovechkin, meantime, amassed 13 points (eight goals and five assists) and posted three multiple-goal games in the month. . . . Right wing Stephen Peat (broken right hand) skated with the team yesterday but remains on injured reserve.