- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

Three players left the ice early yesterday for the Washington Capitals and in two cases that’s not bad news at all. In the third, it’s definitely cause for worry.

Rookie sensation Alex Ovechkin left about a half hour before practice ended and said later he was experiencing a slight groin pull. However, he said he would definitely play tonight against Philadelphia.

“I’m not concerned,” said coach Glen Hanlon, taking the stance most coaches do that there’s not much he can do when it comes to injuries. “If he’s healthy, he’s healthy. If he’s not, he’s not. We’ll see [today].”

Ovechkin, who leads the Caps in every offensive category and is seventh in the league in goal-scoring with 24, said he was banged up Wednesday night when he took a series of hits in the second and third periods from 6-foot-9, 260-pound Ottawa defenseman Zdano Chara. He finished the game, but his six-game goal-scoring streak came to an end.

While on the ice, Ovechkin experimented with a new visor — a light blue-tinted one — to help shield his eyes from lights. He had been wearing a light brown-tinted visor.

Center Jeff Halpern and left wing Jeff Friesen were the other two players who left the ice early yesterday, but both were making progress in their recovery from injuries.

On the ice before practice began, Halpern left 10 minutes after it started, exercising the groin he injured in the second period against Atlanta. He missed the Ottawa game and doesn’t plan to play today but said he might be ready by Sunday when Washington plays host to Florida.

Friesen, who had abdominal surgery Dec. 8 and has been out since early November, skated for 45 minutes yesterday, his longest stretch since surgery. He said he felt good, was feeling better each day and had his sights set on a return in Anaheim a week from today.

Hanlon did change two of the three defensive pairings but would not say if that meant one regular might be benched for tonight. Ivan Majesky was paired with Mathieu Biron for practice yesterday while Nolan Yonkman, normally a reserve, moved up to skate with Shaone Morrisonn.

“I’m not saying who’s in or who’s out,” the coach said.

For reasons Hanlon would not discuss, Majesky did not play in the third period against the Senators, although he did not appear hurt during the game and didn’t seem to be injured yesterday.

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