The Washington Times - September 14, 2008, 03:25PM

Day One of the NHL season is in the books for the Washington Capitals. OK, not really but don’t tell that to the 26 rookies who were out on the ice today. It was a pretty grueling two-hour session, with a short break to resurface the ice in between. It ended with a long conditioning stint that had guys on all fours gasping for air and laying on the ice.

“The rest of the week won’t be nearly as hard, but we had to have a barometer of who is where and what stage they were ready,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We wanted to make the young guys understand there is NHL shape, there is junior shape, [and] there is AHL shape. This is stuff I had to go through as a player. I didn’t understand. If we can make them understand at 19 or 20, then for some of them with their next camp, especially the first-year guys, it is ‘I know what I’ve got to do this summer.’ “

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Some news and notes from the first day:

*GM George McPhee said there is no update yet on Nicklas Backstrom, who injured his ankle while skating here at K-Plex a few days ago.

*Anton Gustafsson’s back is not back to 100 percent, but he did participate today. McPhee said it was about 98 percent. Gustafsson said a doctor told him it could take as much as two years for the herniated disc in his lower back to heal. He is playing in the second tier league in Sweden (think AHL) and his regular season has already started. He is missing a game or two to be here, but he said his coach (Magnus Arvedson, formerly of the Ottawa Senators) understands. More on him in tomorrow’s paper.

*Thanks to reporter Slava Malamud, we were able to chat with each of the three Russian prospects in camp. Goaltender Simeon Varlamov brushed aside a question about his desire to stay in North America with an ‘Of course,’ but where he, Michal Neuvirth and Daren Machesney will play and how much remains a mystery. McPhee said the possibility of loaning out one to another AHL franchise has been discussed, and it didn’t sound like sending one to South Carolina of the ECHL was much of a possibility.

*Viktor Dovgan said he went back to Russia last year as part of an agreement with the Caps to bulk up, and now he is back.

*Alex Ovechkin showed up toward the end of the interviews sporting a Sochi 2014 t-shirt. I expect to see him wearing a shirt with that phrase on it a lot over the next, oh, five or six years. Varlamov said Ovechkin’s mother has been cooking for him, and the reigning league MVP said he is looking after the three Russian kids.

*There were six guys who went on the ice after the rookies were done, including Mike Green, Tomas Fleischmann and Chris Bourque. The other three were Jakub Cutta, Tom Maxwell and Boudreau’s son, Ben, who has signed with Flint in the IHL for this coming season.