- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Center Michael Nylander was placed on injured reserve with a broken leg and defenseman Rick Berry was waived yesterday as the Washington Capitals struggled to reach the NHL’s 23-man roster limit.

Although general manager George McPhee would not confirm it, left wing Alex Henry, who sustained a concussion in last Wednesday’s preseason game with Philadelphia, and defenseman J.F. Fortin, who missed much of training camp with a back injury, apparently will be the final two players sent back to the Portland (Maine) Pirates of the American Hockey League.

“We’ve designated a couple of guys as non-roster players, so they don’t count towards our roster, which gives me a couple of days to do something,” McPhee said.

The broken leg that will keep Nylander out all month has given new life to veteran left wing Kip Miller and has left rookie Boyd Gordon as a member of Washington’s top line. Coach Bruce Cassidy said yesterday Miller and Gordon will skate with five-time NHL scoring champion Jaromir Jagr in Nylander’s absence when the Capitals open their 30th season tomorrow night against the New York Islanders at MCI Center.

“It’s a lot to ask of Gordon, but Jags had a lot of success with a similar player, Jan Hrdina, a couple of years ago in Pittsburgh,” Cassidy said. “And Miller and Jagr [who played together with the Penguins] have great chemistry.”

Usual checking line center Jeff Halpern had skated with Miller and Jagr on Friday against Carolina in the first preseason game after Nylander was hurt, but Cassidy ultimately opted to have the injury disturb only one of his top three lines. That meant Halpern was reteamed with Steve Konowalchuk and Peter Bondra and that Dainius Zubrus, Robert Lang and Mike Grier would resume working together.

Brian Sutherby will center the fourth line tomorrow, quite possibly between Matt Pettinger and Stephen Peat. Right wing Brian Willsie will be an extra forward along with Russian rookie Alexander Semin. Cassidy said Semin will see spot action early this season as he learns the NHL game, especially its defensive aspects.

“We love Alex’s skills with the puck but have to get him to understand that there are so many 2-1 games that making safe, no-risk plays are what wins you games some nights,” Cassidy said. “We had a lot of risky plays last year, and we want to get away from that.”

On defense, Brendan Witt and rookie Steve Eminger will partner as they have since training camp began, with Joel Kwiatkowski teaming with Sergei Gonchar. John Gruden or Josef Boumedienne will join Jason Doig in the third pair.

“I like our team a lot,” Cassidy said. “They’ve come to work every day with their hard hats on, and I appreciate that. You should see a little more cohesiveness amongst them now that most of us have been together for a year. We’ll make some mistakes on the blue line, but hopefully they’re not killers and we can learn from them.”

Notes — If Berry, who played in 43 games for Washington last season, clears waivers, he will be assigned to Portland, as will Henry and Fortin if they are the final cuts. …

Several players have changed uniform numbers. Boumedienne goes from No.39 to No.2, Doig from No.54 to No.3, Gordon from No.60 to No.15 and Sutherby from No.46 to No.16. Willsie will wear No.24.

Staff writer Dave Fay contributed to this article.

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