- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 1, 2006

The Washington Capitals may have found a temporary solution to their sticky roster problem. It’s not the one the team was looking for, but if it comes to pass, it might buy some time to sort through personnel.

Three players were missing from practice yesterday and will not appear in today’s Verizon Center preseason finale with defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina.

Center Dainius Zubrus and wings Matt Bradley and Matt Pettinger did not skate with the team and it is assumed whatever ails them happened during Friday night’s 1-0 victory over Philadelphia. Coach Glen Hanlon refused to describe even the approximate location of any of the injuries.

Hanlon did say Bradley should be available for the season opener against the Rangers in New York on Thursday night but wasn’t sure about the others.

Washington has 25 players on its roster and must be down to 23 by tomorrow. If one or more of the players who didn’t skate yesterday went on injured reserve, the Caps will have seven additional days to take a longer look at individuals who are making the final selection process difficult.

Right wing Alexandre Giroux and centers Kris Beech and Jakub Klepis are fighting for as many as two jobs. Each has his strengths. Beech, drafted seventh overall by the Caps in 1999, has played in 109 NHL games and is skilled, but has not displayed consistency. Klepis was Ottawa’s first-round pick (16th) in 2002, is highly skilled and has demonstrated chemistry with Richard Zednik; Giroux is viewed as a late bloomer with scoring ability. He’s not afraid to use his body and can play all three forward positions.

Of the 25 players still on the roster, only two — Klepis and defenseman Mike Green — do not have to clear waivers to be sent to the minors, quite possibly a critical factor in the thinking of management when it comes time to make decisions.

Beech and defenseman Steve Eminger both had good games Friday night. While Beech has struggled with consistency throughout camp, Eminger — a top four defenseman — seemed to skate without much motivation.

“I thought that was [Beech’s] best game of preseason,” Hanlon said. “I thought he was solid all around. He could have had three or four points, but people missed easy chances. He had a strong game.”

He also had the game’s only goal, scored with less than four minutes left.

After having knee surgery in April, Zubrus was expected to go through a five-month recovery. But he switched medications within the past week because he the pain was still bothering him. He finally played in his first preseason game against the Flyers.

“No, we’re not concerned he came back too soon,” Hanlon said. “We had medical clearance to go ahead but we didn’t know how it was going to respond. Zubie wanted to practice [yesterday], but I said to him that if he had some discomfort [Friday] night, let’s back off. We’ve been extremely cautious with this.”

When healthy, Zubrus centers the first line.

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