Capitals prospect OK

Chris Bourque, all 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds of him, has been the target of more than a few cheap-shot artists in the American Hockey League for several reasons.

Among them: his size, which makes him a convenient and easy target; his ability, which puts him in the bull’s-eye because teams are trying to eliminate him; his name, being the son of a Hall of Fame defenseman.

The Washington Capitals prospect and Hershey Bears forward was carried from the Copps Arena ice on a stretcher Sunday night in Hamilton, Ontario, after being attacked from behind and slammed into the metal posts supporting one of the nets.

Bourque suffered a concussion but is expected to fully recover. However, he is being held out of tonight’s game in Cleveland as a precaution.

“It looked a lot worse at first than it actually was,” said one witness. “He got a nice ovation from the fans and acknowledged them with a wave as he was being carried off. He should be fine. He didn’t hurt his neck, and that’s what they were originally worried about.”

Bourque, who has two goals and nine points in 10 games, has been run in nearly every rink the Bears have played in this season. One of the players who was supposed to “police” the opposition, Eric Labelle, has been out with injuries all season. A player who has willingly jumped into the breach, forward/defenseman Louie Robitaille, has done his best when not injured but occasionally tries too hard and now faces a suspension of a game or two.

Another player who stepped up Sunday night for the Bears was defenseman Nolan Yonkman, who earned a TKO decision. Yonkman, who started with the Caps this season, is in Hershey on a conditioning assignment.

Hamilton was hit with a major attempting-to-injure penalty, and the Bears put it to good use. They broke a tie, scoring twice and earning a 4-2 victory, one night after losing a 4-3 shootout decision in Toronto.

Bourque was the fourth player taken by the Caps in the 2004 draft, going early in the second round.

Notes — The Caps’ game against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla., originally scheduled for Oct. 29 but postponed because of Hurricane Wilma, has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. on Dec.1 in Sunrise. The rescheduled game breaks up one of the Caps’ longest stretches of free time during the season, five days. …

The Washington Capitals Fan Club has some openings for its Nov.12 trip to see the Caps play the New Jersey Devils in East Rutherford, N.J. For information, contact the fan club at its table in Section 118 at MCI Center. …

The Caps did not have enough forwards on the ice yesterday at practice to play a game. Two regulars, center Dainius Zubrus and right wing Matt Bradley, are listed as day-to-day with groin problems, while a third, right wing Petr Sykora, missed practice with a sore back. The Caps are off today, practice tomorrow, then have three games in four nights, so a few call-ups are not out of the question. The Caps are in Philadelphia on Thursday night, then play host to Atlanta on Friday night and Toronto late Sunday afternoon.

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