- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2002

Center Jeff Halpern had major reconstructive surgery on his left knee Wednesday but is expected to be fully recovered in time to join the Washington Capitals for training camp in September.
"A significant tear [in the anterior cruciate ligament] was found when they went in, but I'm told the surgery was a complete success," said general manager George McPhee said yesterday. Although the injury was significant, the ligament was not completely torn, which means his rehabilitation time will be about six months.
Halpern was injured Jan.16 against Montreal when he was checked hard into the boards. He finished the game after having his knee taped. The next day, he could barely walk.
The surgery, performed by team physician Ben Shaffer at Sibley Memorial Hospital, was delayed until the trauma and swelling surrounding the injured area had been reduced.
It is the first major injury for Halpern, a Montgomery County native who is the Caps' first homegrown product, in his three-year NHL career. He is the second player lost for the season; defenseman Calle Johansson went down in early November when he had a torn rotator cuff surgically repaired.
Halpern's surgery ends a season he would rather forget. Training camp started Sept.11, but he held out until Sept. 26, when he signed a two-year deal, with a club option for a third, worth a potential $3.45 million. Although training is a year-round activity for the center, he nonetheless was not in full game shape when the season started Oct. 6.
He had only five goals (four game-winners, second best on the team) and 19 points this season, well off what he and the team thought he would be contributing. Worse, he was minus-9 defensively after going a combined plus-34 in the first two seasons of his career.
All last season Halpern had been centering what became known as the best checking line in the game, with Steve Konowalchuk on the left and Ulf Dahlen on the right. But Konowalchuk played only five games before he needed shoulder surgery and Dahlen was shifted to the first line. That left Halpern trying to fit in with new partners, and no match was found.
Halpern is a lifelong Caps fan. He went to Princeton, where he played four years of hockey. Caps scouts spotted him while they were at Princeton to check out another player, and Washington signed the free agent in March 1999 after he rejected higher offers from two other teams.
Notes The team reassembled yesterday after the Olympic break, and coach Ron Wilson put the 17 players who were present (others are at the Games or excused) through a rigorous 75-minute workout. The drills ended with their own mini-Olympics featuring short track speed skating. To no one's surprise, Peter Bondra was the winner. The Caps' next game is Tuesday at home against Florida. …
The Caps have won four industry awards from the Information Display and Entertainment Association (IDEA) for their in-arena entertainment. The team received IDEA Golden Matrix awards for best overall video display in pro and major college sports, best overall video in the NHL, best show opening and best music video. The four awards are one more than a year ago, and the Caps' total of seven in two years more than doubles the haul for any other team or facility.
Staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this report.


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