- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2001

The Lucky one is a little fussy about his left shoulder, which is still recovering from an April surgery. The Fussey one is lucky his spleen didn't rupture last November.

Beyond their medical sagas of last season and their unusual surnames, Owen Fussey and Jeff Lucky have plenty in common. Roommates at the under-17 world championships two years ago in Ontario, Fussey and Lucky are living together again this week at Washington's ongoing rookie camp at Piney Orchard Ice Arena, where they dress on opposite sides of center Jeff Halpern, the only proven NHL player participating.

Third-rounder Fussey and fourth-rounder Lucky, both of whom play in the Western Hockey League, were also the first two forwards chosen by the Capitals in the June draft.

"Owen is a power-type winger, a tremendous skater," Caps scouting director Ross Mahoney said. "He goes to the net and finishes his checks. Owen didn't play that much last year in offensive situations [15 goals and 10 assists in 48 games] because he was a 17-year-old on a team with a lot of 19- and 20-year-olds. We'd like to see him get more time on the power play this year. Owen is a Steve Konowalchuk type, very honest up and down the wing."

The 6-foot, 185-pound Fussey is just 18, but his chiseled upper body looks like it belongs to a 20-something NHL veteran. The son of a bodybuilder, Fussey was, typically, working out at the gym back home in Winnipeg when his mother called to tell him he had been drafted. The news was welcome since he was lower in most draft projections. But after missing a third of last season because of a splenectomy, Fussey was just glad to be alive.

"I took a stick in the stomach in practice," Fussey said. "I was driving home when I decided to stop at the doctor's because I had so much pain. I passed out on the floor. I had lost 3* pints of blood, half of what I had in my body. I was lucky. If I had passed out when I was driving, I would have been toast. I missed 24 games, but once I came back, I didn't worry about getting hit [he does wear an extra pad over the scar]. I just went out and played my game. I like to crash and bang."

Coincidentally, Fussey wore number 21 as a right wing for the Calgary Hitmen, the same number worn by Colorado star Peter Forsberg, who missed the final two rounds of the Avalanche's march to the Stanley Cup after having his spleen removed.

Lucky's ailment wasn't as scary, but it happened at a worse time. He dislocated the shoulder in early March and missed the rest of the season when rehabilitation didn't solve the problem. Lucky finally had surgery in late April, only recently began to lift weights with that shoulder again and isn't supposed to be 100 percent until late August.

"Missing the last part of the season definitely affected how high I was drafted, but what can you do?" said Lucky, a native of Foam Lake, Saskatchewan. "I'm happy to be here. This week is a lot harder work than I anticipated, but that's good because it's helping me get back in shape. I hadn't been on the ice since my surgery, but I don't think I'm sticking out like a sore thumb. I've got pretty good hands. I can find open ice pretty well. And most of my shots get through. I want to do the best I can in training camp, but I know I won't be playing here for a couple of years. I'm hoping to grab a first-line position in Spokane [of the WHL] this year, put up some decent numbers and help the team."

That's also what the Caps expect from the 6-1, 193-pound right wing/ center, who had 20 goals and 21 assists in 53 games before hurting his shoulder.

"Jeff's a little more of an offensive player than Owen," Mahoney said. "Jeff has a gifted shot and deceptive speed. Jeff needs to get a little stronger and work a little more on his defensive skills, two areas in which Owen is ahead of him."

For this week, anyway, Fussey and Lucky are even, a couple of 18-year-olds thrilled to be wearing NHL sweaters, skating on NHL ice and calling an NHL locker room home.

"It's exciting that we're together again, and it's kind of hard to believe that we're here preparing to go to an NHL camp," Lucky said. "We've been watching the guys who normally hang out in here on TV our whole lives."

In seven weeks, those guys will be teammates, at least temporarily.

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