- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 30, 2002

Seen and heard last night at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J.:

WHERE'S THE D? One has to wonder who will play defense for the Pirates in Portland, Maine, because most of the defenders are with Washington.

The Caps were without three regulars against the Devils, and the situation is expected to be the same tonight when Washington plays host to the New York Islanders. Sergei Gonchar missed his fourth straight game with a concussion, Ken Klee was sidelined with a sore foot after stopping a shot Tuesday night in Buffalo and Frantisek Kucera missed his first game since being added to the roster Nov. 15.

Kucera is out with a stinger, an injury that affects nerve endings in the neck and usually is associated with football. He was injured during the second period of the Buffalo game when he collided with teammate Jaromir Jagr.

Todd Rohloff, who was returned to the Pirates in early March after 14 games with the Caps, was recalled. Sylvain Cote, who missed five games with a stiff back, was pressed back into service.

Nonetheless, three of the Washington defenders against the Devils Rohloff, Nolan Yonkman and J.F. Fortin were call-ups from the American Hockey League. And Yonkman played just his second game in the NHL since being returned to the minors in mid-January after a two-game stint.

It has been a season marked by injuries for the Caps, with the defensive corps taking an especially heavy hit. It started when Calle Johansson played just 11 games before undergoing season-ending rotator cuff surgery. Gonchar has played the most games of any defenseman this season, 70.

Only one Cap, wing Chris Simon, has played in all 75 games. Washington has lost 238 man-games to injury.

Left wing Matt Pettinger was the Caps' only healthy scratch against the Devils.

Dave Fay

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