- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The Washington Capitals finalized their opening day roster yesterday, placing one player on injured reserve and deflecting questions about the health of another.

The Caps are down to 23 players after putting left wing Matt Pettinger, one of the standouts of camp, on IR for a minimum of seven days with an undisclosed upper body injury.

General manager George McPhee then tried to sidestep a few dozen questions about star left wing Alex Ovechkin, who skated about 10 minutes with the first line then left the 90-minute practice and did not return.

“We have a few bumps and bruises but I expect most of these guys will be back on the ice [today] ready to go,” McPhee said, refusing to directly address a possible Ovechkin injury.

“Alex should be fine [today]. We’re just being careful,” the general manager said.

McPhee did say last season’s rookie of the year was not injured when he went knee-to-knee with Tampa Bay’s Eric Healey in the opening preseason game. Ovechkin fell to the ice and remained there for a minute before getting up and leaving under his own power. He later returned to finish the game.

Ovechkin yesterday said he was not injured and was ready to play. He appeared in four of the team’s six exhibition games, had a team-high 21 shots but no goals. He had 52 goals and 106 points during his first season.

Pettinger was injured when he was high-sticked by Philadelphia’s R.J. Umberger as the preseason game ended Friday night, a 1-0 Caps’ win. Umberger appeared to catch Pettinger on the left shoulder, and Pettinger responded with a not-so-gentle poke to the midsection. McPhee listed Pettinger as “week-to-week,” a heavy loss to the Caps because the wing is a key penalty killer.

When Pettinger returns, the Caps will have to make another roster move. Two rookies, center Jakub Klepis and defenseman Mike Green, made the club as well as newcomers Brian Pothier and John Erskine, both defensemen.

“I don’t expect too many of the players to be out of the lineup for Thursday night,” McPhee said. “We might have a player or two max [missing the season opener in New York], but we’re in pretty good shape.

“We liked the way preseason went, the pace of our games, the tempo we played at. We liked for the most part the discipline we showed, continuing to cut back on penalties. If we can do that we should be in pretty good shape. We’re a lot further ahead of where we were last year.”

Notes — Goal-scoring threat Alexander Semin missed practice to see a dentist but was expected today. … The payroll for the Caps’ 23-man roster is $30,536,112, about $2.5 million above the league minimum but nearly $13.5 million less than the salary cap of $44 million.

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