- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2001

Steve Konowalchuk, the Washington Capital who made mucking and grinding a most honorable profession, will miss three to four months after undergoing surgery yesterday to repair a dislocated shoulder.
The loss of the left wing breaks up, at least for now, the unit that the Hockey News labeled the best checking line in the league last season. It is centered by Jeff Halpern and includes Ulf Dahlen on the right side and was considered the most stable line on the club.
Konowalchuk missed Tuesday's 3-2 overtime victory in Los Angeles, breaking a streak of 169 consecutive games for the wing, the longest such streak on the team.
"The surgery went very, very well," said general manager George McPhee. Konowalchuk had gone to have his shoulder examined yesterday by team physician Ben Shaffer, and the decision was made to operate immediately so he would have time to get ready for the playoffs. Konowalchuk should be available by late February at the latest.
Konowalchuk missed postseason once before and it still hurts him. He sustained a severe injury to his left wrist late in the 1997-98 season and was operated on the day after the regular season ended. That spring, the Caps made it to the Stanley Cup finals and probably would have put up a better fight with the checker in the lineup.
"It's a huge loss for us," Halpern said. "You know exactly what you're going to get out of him every night and a lot of those nights he's your best player. He's also a great guy to have around off the ice, especially for me because he was somebody I looked up to and used him as an example.
"It's definitely a huge loss but at the same time it's not the whole season. I think we have a deep enough team to compensate for that, guys stepping up and filling roles and do better jobs than are expected. When he comes back, it will be a huge boost to our team just before the playoffs."
Konowalchuk, recently named a co-captain along with defenseman Brendan Witt, has long had the reputation of a tireless worker who leaves 100 percent on the ice when the game or practice is over. His ability to check and muck in the corners got better three seasons ago when he was teamed with Dahlen, the master at controlling the puck down low and forcing defenders into mistakes.
McPhee said the shoulder had been bothering Konowalchuk for three to four weeks until the team finally had to take action.
"There was one episode where it kind of came out and then it came out in bed one night," McPhee said. "When that happened we knew he probably would be ineffective for the rest of the season playing like this. We thought if he had the surgery now we could certainly count on him in February and March."
The general manager said there were no plans to make moves outside the organization to replace the wing, that there are current players and minor-leaguers who can fill in. For tonight, the plan is for Peter Ferraro to skate in one of the vacant spots.
"He'll be replaced, and whoever it is won't be as good as (Konowalchuk) but the beauty of sports is sometimes you pull a rabbit out of your hat and somebody does the job adequately or even better, which would be real nice," McPhee said.
The club might also check out Rene Corbet, the veteran who did a decent job during camp on a tryout contract, or former Cap James Black, who is playing for Grand Rapids, Mich., in the American League.
"I don't know if anybody can duplicate what he does but (tonight) we'll have Peter Bondra with us and that will give us a different look," Halpern said. "Whether it's Bondra or Joe Sacco, we'll have a different look. Nobody will replace Kono but hopefully whoever fills that role will bring a different dimension and give us a chance to win and move into a playoff spot."

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