- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 20, 2001

At practice yesterday, Chris Simon, the Washington Capitals' hulking left wing, tussled with one of the team's larger defensemen over space in front of the net. Simon finally pushed the defender out of the way with one arm and went about his business.
A month ago, even two weeks ago, Simon might have been afraid to try that. He was still rehabbing his right shoulder, which has been surgically repaired three times, and it wasn't strong enough to do what he did yesterday. He also was not confident about the fullness of his recovery.
It appears the confidence has returned. The latest operation, five hours in length early last summer, appears to have done the job, which gives Simon the motion he needs to play at the level that is expected.
"I think he's playing really well," said veteran center Adam Oates, who was instrumental in Simon's career-high 29-goal season two years ago. "We need goals desperately and when he's going he's a force. Yeah, having Si back is a very welcome addition."
After going 16 games without a goal, Simon has three in his last four games. His ice time, down to about six minutes a game, has increased by a third and will continue to grow as long as he gets better, the reward for consistent play.
"We knew it would take time to build up the shoulder and regain confidence," Simon said. "It also takes time for the mind to believe that the operation was a success. I've only been healthy one season in the last five years and that's the year I had 29 goals. It's tough playing with one arm."
Simon's problem, with both shoulders, was chronic dislocation. After a holdout last fall, the left wing suffered a dislocation in his sixth game, Nov. 5 against Tampa Bay, and his effectiveness was reduced more than 80 percent.
"You could almost say he took the whole year off in the sense of not being a confident player," coach Ron Wilson said. "He didn't play in any games during preseason because he was still rehabbing but now I think he's getting closer and that's a real good sign for us. He's starting to play better, he's hitting, he's involved, he's positive on our bench. And as he plays better he plays more."
The toll the dislocations have taken is obvious by Simon's stats. The one year he was healthy, he led the team with 29 goals; the years he was bothered by shoulder problems, he totaled 29 goals for all four seasons.
"The big thing is the confidence that builds up slowly, knowing the surgery was successful," he said. "The coaches just didn't throw me out there, toss me to the wolves when I missed training camp because I was rehabbing. They let me take my time, they were very patient and now it's paying off. You work hard in practice, finish a few checks and it carries over into games. I've just got to stay positive and not get frustrated."
Notes Rookie right wing Chris Corrinet was quietly returned to the Caps' Portland, Maine, farm team Sunday. He played a limited but hard-hitting role in seven games with Washington but needs more ice time to develop. Sending him back opens up a roster spot for the return of badly-missed defenseman Brendan Witt. … Wing Ulf Dahlen was rested yesterday and missed a fast-paced conditioning skate.


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