- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2005

The Washington Capitals will have to call up some players from the minors to play in tonight’s game. The Philadelphia Flyers will have to do the same thing if they can get around their salary cap problems, a difficulty the Caps would love to have.

The Caps and Flyers meet tonight for the first of four games this season, with both teams banged up more than normal for this time in the year. For the Caps, it’s a rash of minor, nagging injuries. For the Flyers, injuries have been a problem all season, and center Keith Primeau’s concussions are considered serious.

Meanwhile, round one of what might well be a career-long duel for honors between Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin went to the Penguins’ newest star when he was named rookie of the month for October yesterday. Ovechkin finished second, in front of Los Angeles goalie Jason Labarbera and New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Crosby edged Ovechkin in points 14 to 13, but several other meaningful categories went to the Caps winger. He had four times as many goals (eight) as Crosby, including a game-winner, a short-handed score and two power-play goals. Crosby had one power-play tally and one at even strength. Ovechkin had an eight-game point streak, while Crosby had a six-game point streak.

More importantly, Ovechkin is plus-1 defensively, while Crosby, a center, is minus-3 and no longer takes draws for Pittsburgh. The Penguins won one of their 11 October games, and the Caps won four of their 11.

Washington started practice yesterday with 24 players on the ice. When drills ended 90 minutes later, there were three players missing — forwards Dainius Zubrus, Matt Bradley and Petr Sykora.

“We have lots of guys who didn’t practice, half-practiced or practiced,” said coach Glen Hanlon, who tried to make light of a bad situation. “As of right now I would have to assume we would have [call-ups] because of the numbers who finished practice.”

One of today’s recalls likely will be defenseman Nolan Yonkman, who has been in Hershey on a conditioning assignment that is about to expire, but that doesn’t solve the problem. The Caps have plenty of defensemen but not enough forwards.

Hanlon said he probably would dress seven instead of the usual six defensemen, meaning one of the four forward lines will be short a man. If a forward is the second recall today, that probably means one of the three skaters who failed to finish practice yesterday might be ready for tonight’s game.

The Caps like to operate on the merit system for recalls. If that is the case, left wing Tomas Fleischmann is a good bet to get a call. He has four goals and 13 points and is on a nine-game point streak for Hershey. Another candidate would be right wing Eric Fehr, who has three goals and eight points. A safer bet might be center Boyd Gordon, who was demoted a week ago but has played well in Hershey and knows the system the Caps have in place.

One thing Hanlon has decided not to do is move defenseman Ben Clymer back to his former spot on wing.

“That would be the easy way out,” Hanlon said. “I said I wanted to give Ben five games to really sink his teeth into this. It’s not fair to a player to be moving him back and forth. The test will be for the coaching staff not to do that” but still come up with a solution.

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