Marcus Johansson knew, "no doubt about it," that he had to be 100 percent before returning to game action for the Washington Capitals. Given the nature of the injury, now we know why the forward was so concerned.
Johansson, who has missed the past 10 games, passed a neuropsychological test Tuesday to be cleared for contact and is going through the proper protocol to play, a team spokesman said Wednesday.
The Caps had not previously revealed that Johansson was dealing with a concussion. The forward did not want to say when he began experiencing symptoms.
"I've been feeling it for a while, and it wasn't good," he said. "I'm glad it's getting better now and hopefully I can play soon."
Passing this exam was a necessary step to be cleared for contact in practice. Johansson deferred to trainer Greg Smith about the next step.
"We're still figuring out all what happens now," coach Adam Oates said. "It's such a weird thing in the league. I don't have too much more information on that. But obviously good for him."
Before Johansson is activated from injured reserve, he'll have to get his conditioning up to speed. The 22-year-old last played Feb. 7.
Johansson said he just wants to get back to playing in real games and practicing at 100 percent. First, though, he's going to get bumped around in practice.
"If he feels good, then it's back to normal where you start over and let's go," Oates said.
Rangers claim Hamrlik
The Caps won't have Roman Hamrlik to scratch anymore, as the veteran defenseman was claimed off waivers by the New York Rangers. The 38-year-old defenseman was a healthy scratch for 17 of Washington's first 21 games.
"I'm happy for him," Oates said. "He wants to play hockey and he's got a chance to play and hopefully he does well."
New York, which assumes the $3.5 million cap hit and remaining salary, claimed Hamrlik the day after defenseman Marc Staal took a puck to the face.
"The league is amazing: Staal gets hurt last night, they need a guy," Oates said. "Roman's the call."
Hamrlik, the No. 1 overall pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992, is a veteran of 1,383 NHL games. The Rangers are his seventh team in 20 seasons.
"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.
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.
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