- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 6, 2005

The Washington Capitals had 23 players on the ice for practice yesterday, but they have no idea who will play against Toronto today.

“I don’t know who’s going to be healthy,” coach Glen Hanlon said with a shrug of his shoulders.

Hanlon probably won’t know about a definitive lineup until after the pregame skate.

How bad is it? Among the players who took part in practice (which opened with 20 minutes of soccer on skates, without sticks), four were limited by injuries and another three were playing in the American Hockey League less than a week ago.

“We have enough players,” Hanlon said. “Position-wise, we just don’t know where they’re going to be.”

Right wing Matt Bradley (groin) went on backdated injured reserve Friday night, and it was learned yesterday that center Dainius Zubrus also was on backdated IR, which the Caps had not announced. Players on IR must sit for seven days, but it is not known when the two were inactivated formally, making it difficult to determine when they will be able to return.

Three more players were added to the list of the injured yesterday. Defenseman Jamie Heward is sidelined with what is thought to be an arm injury, while left wings Jeff Friesen and Matt Pettinger both missed practice with undisclosed injuries.

All told, the Caps have nine players — six forwards and three defenders — in various stages of recovery.

Washington has called up three forwards from Hershey — centers Brooks Laich and Jakub Klepis and left wing Tomas Fleischmann. Laich has played a steady game since he was called up Oct.25, and Klepis did not appear to be flustered in the least in his NHL debut Friday, the day he was recalled. He had a goal against Atlanta and took part in the shootout.

Laich, Klepis and Fleischmann all came to the Caps in return for experienced players during the 2003-04 salary dump, coming from clubs where they were first- or second-round picks.

“There’s a real sense with this group because they’ve been traded for and even though they weren’t drafted [by Washington] we brought them in at an early age,” Hanlon said. “These kids were so young when we got them that we feel like they’re our development players. We’ve invested a lot of time in these kids. It’s great to see them have success, but the hockey graveyard is full of one-week wonders.”

The Maple Leafs have been playing so-so hockey (7-5-2) since a shootout loss to Ottawa on opening night when they also lost their captain, Mats Sundin, the on- and off-ice leader of the team.

He was struck in the left eye by an errant puck, breaking his orbital bone and causing temporary loss of sight. He returned to the ice last night against Tampa Bay.

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