- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Jaromir Jagr said yesterday he will play tonight for the Washington Capitals against Ottawa if the trainers and coach say it's OK.
"I expect him to play," said coach Ron Wilson, not exactly an unexpected sentiment considering the Caps' recent run of 1-5-1 in which they have scored 10 goals.
The reigning NHL scoring champion said his ailing right knee felt "a lot better but we're going to find out during the game how good it really is. … Right now it's better than it was the last time I came back but everybody knows this sport and anything can happen during a game."
Jagr was injured Oct. 10 while playing the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden when he was taken down from behind by Rangers defender Igor Ulanov. He missed three games and played seven before re-injuring the knee in overtime Nov. 2 against Phoenix. He has since missed four games.
The right wing has five goals and eight points in 10 games.
"It's a very physical game but I feel like I should be OK," Jagr said. "It's going to be tough, I know it's going to be tough, every comeback is. But I feel like this is the right time."
Jagr had been playing with Jeff Halpern and Ulf Dahlen before he was injured the last time but Wilson put Joe Sacco on that line and the unit has come close to being what it was with Steve Konowalchuk before the left wing needed shoulder surgery.
Yesterday Wilson had Jagr skating with left wing Matt Pettinger and center Adam Oates, hoping some magic develops at least for the center and his right wing.
"We're one step closer to being healthy but we'll never be 100 percent for obvious reasons," Wilson said. "But you need someone like [Jagr] in the lineup to help with offense, and it provides a lot more balance as well."
Oates and Jagr played together briefly during training camp, and that appeared to work well. All parties are hoping it clicks again, but there are no guarantees.
"Sometimes, the way the game is played today, you might click tonight but not tomorrow night," Oates said. "Right now for him he's just got to get himself in playing shape and healthy, feeling good and worry about who he plays with after that."
Wilson tried to keep his three key offensive weapons Peter Bondra, Jagr and Oates separated to force opponents to split their defense up, but injuries and the necessity of regaining a winning touch forced him to bring two of them together.
"Everybody wants to play with him but it's hard because he gets the best defenders against him every night," Oates said. "Jagr is used to playing a certain way. He played on the same team for 11 years and had certain things just come with ease, playing with certain guys. All of a sudden he's got to educate 20 guys and there's a lot of pressure on him to help the team win."
Notes
General manager George McPhee said defenseman Frantisek Kucera has been called up from Sparta Praha, an Elite Division team in Prague, Czech Republic. The Caps obtained Kucera from Pittsburgh in the Jagr deal. McPhee said he was unsure when Kucera would arrive due to security-related travel restrictions. Kucera has more than 400 games of NHL experience. … Wilson said he was resting defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who sat out practice. Defenseman Brendan Witt was an excused absence due to a death in his family. Defenseman Ken Klee remains out with a rib injury. … Calle Johansson had surgery last night to repair a torn rotator cuff. The defenseman will miss the rest of the season rehabbing.



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