- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2006

Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee said it doesn’t bother him to have just six defensemen on the active roster, normally the minimum for an NHL team. Nonetheless, the search goes on for a spare.

“That’s one of the benefits of having your farm team so close,” he said. “With the guys playing in Hershey, we can call them up any time and know they can be here in time for a game.”

That’s where McPhee was last night, watching the Bears suffer their first loss in regulation after an 8-0-0-1 start to the Philadelphia Phantoms. The Caps play host to Ottawa tonight.

McPhee said he had no plans to bring any players up (it would require a roster move because the team is at maximum of 23 players) but wanted to see who was playing well for Hershey.

“I’d like to watch them at least a few times and see if anyone is capable” of coming up and helping the Caps, McPhee said. “It’s one thing to get [daily written] reports and hear about how people are playing, but I’d rather watch them in person and make my own decision.”

Washington had a spare player on both sides of the blue line until Saturday, when a few things forced roster moves. First, Ben Clymer moved back to right wing from defense, wiping out the defensive spare. Then right wing Richard Zednik had an injury and had to be scratched, giving the Caps the opportunity to recall left wing Tomas Fleischmann to see whether he could give the offense a boost at the NHL level.

Clymer had two goals in his first game back as a forward and was plus-2 defensively. His linemates, Brian Sutherby and Matt Bradley, were each plus-3 and had three assists between them, making coach Glen Hanlon look like a genius for switching Clymer.

The Zednik situation is a mystery. His injury wasn’t disclosed until game time Saturday, and the nature of it still hasn’t been revealed. The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported yesterday that he had a broken wrist, which McPhee said wasn’t true. All the general manager said was that the wing was day-to-day, a classification that has no limits.

Fleischmann had been on fire with the Bears with points in each of his seven games. His eight goals and 14 points led the team.

As for defensemen in Hershey, veteran Lawrence Nycholat is said to be playing the best among blueliners there, but he is 27 and no longer considered a prospect, so his chances of coming up are somewhat remote.

Those who stand a better chance include Jamie Hunt, 22, who is plus-3 defensively and has five points. Jeff Schultz, 20, is 6-foot-6 and 224 pounds, but the Caps would like to give him a full season at the AHL level, and there’s Timo Helbing, 25, who’s 6-foot-3, 217 pounds and a native of Switzerland.

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