One of those TV medical soap operas could be built around Washington Capitals defenseman Nolan Yonkman because the writers would have no problem coming up with a new script every week.
Yonkman had reconstructive knee surgery twice on the same knee. Groin and abdominal problems put him on the shelf for the better part of a season. A broken wrist required surgery. A broken orbital bone around the left eye also required surgery. And he had back muscles torn so badly they caused internal bleeding.
All of this might be because of Yonkman’s size, 6-foot-6, 245 pounds — a huge player even in these days when hockey players are shooting up like weeds.
“For a big man, he gets around the ice really well,” general manager George McPhee said yesterday after the 24-year-old made it through the second day of training camp without aggravating any old injuries or suffering any new ones.
“Get away from me,” Yonkman said in protest last week when a reporter approached, “you’re going to jinx me.”
Yonkman turned pro in 2001 but has played less than 100 games at any level since. Fifteen months ago he was just finishing rehabbing from knee surgery when he tore the same knee up again during a scrimmage at prospect camp.
“It’s been very, very frustrating,” Yonkman said. “You try to take it day-to-day and some days you think it’ll never heal, then it suddenly comes around. You learn a lot about how to take care of your body.”
It is possible Yonkman’s recovery is coming at just the right time. The Caps said yesterday that Ivan Majesky, the Czech free agent who figured to be in the top four rotation, has not recovered from a knee injury last May and is “week-to-week.” Jakub Cutta, the veteran who was a long shot to make the team this season, is out with an infected elbow and rookie Patrick McNeill failed his physical.
That helps open some doors but Yonkman should have developed by this time into an experienced NHL player. However, the progress of the second-round draft pick has been held back by injuries.
“Yes, he’s finally healthy, but he’s missed a lot of time,” McPhee said. “We’re going to play him and hope that he learns quickly.”
That’s fine with coach Glen Hanlon, who was Yonkman’s first pro coach.
“He was always our hardest worker in Portland [Maine],” Hanlon said. “There’s not a lot of 6-6 guys who can skate like that so we’re going to be patient. This is a marathon, not a sprint. But this is a great start for him.”
Notes — Individual game tickets go on sale at 10a.m. today. The team said prices have been reduced by 10 percent but did not list prices. … Former Caps star Peter Bondra signed a one-year contract with Atlanta yesterday for a base salary of $505,000 with $2.9million possible from incentives. But the Thrashers have to win the Stanley Cup for the player to cash them all in. … South Carolina, the Caps’ ECHL affiliate, signed two college products yesterday, forwards Dave Spina (Boston College) and Jeff Legue (Ferris State).
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