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But an Odd Schedule Will Give Players Time to Heal

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Washington Capitals' list of injured players seems to grow each day. But concern among club officials has remained low, due in part to a favorable schedule, which has the Capitals off until Thursday and scheduled to play only twice over the next eight days.

Wingers Matt Bradley (strained leg muscle) and Matt Pettinger (shoulder) returned to practice yesterday; however, they were limited in what they could do and remain on injured reserve.

Center Dainius Zubrus, who has been suffering from discomfort in his surgically repaired knee, left the ice early and limped to the locker room at Ashburn Ice House. Center Brooks Laich also came off before practice was over, while defenseman Ben Clymer and wing Boyd Gordon didn't skate at all, each suffering from a lower body injury. Coach Glen Hanlon would not elaborate on their ailments.

Bradley, who was hurt during training camp, skated for the first hour, but departed before his teammates began a series of spirited skating drills, a strong indication that he's not completely healthy. Asked if he planned to play in the next game, against the Minnesota Wild, Bradley said, "I'll be ready to go Thursday."

Pettinger, out since getting decked in the closing seconds of an exhibition against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sept. 29, was more cautious about his prognosis. He stayed on the ice for the entire practice, but struggled to put any strength behind his shots.

"I'm still a little sore," Pettinger said. "I don't want to put a timetable on it. I did that when I originally injured it, came back [to practice] last week and I wasn't ready. We'll see Wednesday if I'm ready for Thursday. It's not something I want to rush this early in the season."

Pettinger, a 20-goal scorer last season and one of the team's best penalty killers, said his crash-and-bang style won't allow him to play until he's close to 100 percent.

"It's disappointing," he added. "But at the same time, there's 80 more games, and it's more important that I play in as many of those as possible."

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