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“He told me a lot of stories. He’s a great guy,” said goaltender and fellow Czech Michal Neuvirth, who called Hamrlik a “legend” back home. “I still believe he can play in the NHL.”

The Rangers are betting on that, as the Caps get $3.5 million in salary cap relief. With Hamrlik gone, there’s also a space on the 23-man roster.

Oates praised Hamrlik for how he handled playing just four games this season, talking to the coaching staff and general manager George McPhee about his desire to play.

“It’s obviously very hard,” Oates said. “You’ve had a great career and we all went through it. We all get old, right? He can still play in this league, no question. The depth chart just kind of grabbed him a little bit here.”

Brouwer expects to play

An illness forced right wing Troy Brouwer to miss Tuesday night’s overtime victory over the Boston Bruins, the first game he was unable to play in since being traded to Washington in June 2011. But Brouwer skated during Wednesday’s optional practice and reported feeling better.

“The fact that was I was able to come to the rink today [is good],” he said. “[Tuesday] I wasn’t really able to get out of bed very much. Just real uncomfortable as anybody who has the flu knows.”

Brouwer expects to be able to play Thursday against the Florida Panthers. Saturday at the New York Islanders and then back home Sunday against the New York Rangers is up in the air.

“I’ll get some fluids in me and hopefully I can eat something in the next day or two,” he said, “but it’s going to be tough with the back-to-back here.”

It’s uncertain which forward will be scratched to make room for Brouwer.

Ice chips

Goaltender Braden Holtby will make his 11th straight start Thursday versus Florida, Oates said. … Eleven players chose to take part in Wednesday’s optional skate, including six (Tom Poti, Steve Oleksy, Mathieu Perreault, Wojtek Wolski, Joey Crabb and Aaron Volpatti) who played against the Bruins.