- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 3, 2002

Fears that Washington Capitals defenseman Calle Johansson's rotator cuff injury had not healed completely and might require additional surgery were seemingly put to rest when the veteran was examined last Friday by a shoulder specialist in Kentucky.

"The news we got was fantastic," said team physician Ben Shaffer, an orthopedic surgeon, after Johansson was thoroughly examined at the Lexington Orthopedic Sports Medicine Center. "I sent him down there to have his scapula mechanics assessed and so they could precisely identify which of the muscles were working [and which were not] and to prescribe exercises that would best optimize his recovery. And that's what they did."

Johansson sustained what Shaffer called the worst rotator cuff injury he had ever seen after the defenseman was driven into the boards with unbelievable force by Boston defenseman Kyle McLaren during the second game of the season. The hit injured both players. Johansson finished the game and tried to play hurt for three more weeks before surgery became the only option.

Last Nov. 11, at the time of Johansson's operation, Shaffer said it would take the defenseman a year for recovery and rehabilitation. Apparently, Johansson became impatient the last few weeks when his right arm's range of motion wasn't what it had been before the injury. He feared the worst.

"I was worried it wasn't going to be really good again," the veteran said. "We thought maybe we'd have to go in again and do an arthroscopic thing to see if there was something more wrong. I only had about 50 percent of my strength in the arm and I felt weak anytime I tried to raise my arm away from my body.

"I had figured six months and I'd be ready. Hey, if we went to the playoffs last season I was hoping to play. That's what's bothering me, that it's taking so long."

Considering the club's defensive shortcomings last season, the report from Lexington, which confirmed Shaffer's findings, is the best news the Caps could have received. Johansson missed 66 games and that, coupled with some other injuries to defensive standouts, helped drive the team into a defensive tailspin. By the time the club recovered, it was impossible to make up the ground it lost.

Johansson long has been one of the team's leaders on and off the ice. He has played 901 games as a Cap, more than any other defenseman, and will become the all-time franchise leader in games played if he competes in 40 more contests. Kelly Miller holds the mark at 940.

Shaffer sees a complete recovery for the 34-year-old barring a setback during training camp.

"I know it's been surprising to Calle that it's taken as long as we expected to get to the point where his shoulder functions normally," Shaffer said. "But the time factor is not a surprise to us because [the injury] was on the borderline of being irreparable when we saw it. The hit tore two and a half of the four muscles involved; it was as close to an irreparable tear as I've seen. It took every thing we could do to get it back together."

Shaffer said the stiffness and lack of strength Johansson experienced in his shoulder and arm came from the fact the joint was immobilized for three months and muscles under the scapula (shoulder blade) were not being exercised.

The program the Lexington specialists prescribed will take three months to complete but Shaffer and the Kentucky personnel feel Johansson should be ready for the team's Oct. 11 opener.

"He'll be stronger three months after that but I think he'll be ready when the bell rings," Shaffer said.

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