- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — When Mike Richards was a Philadelphia rookie, he publicly questioned the ability of Washington counterpart Alex Ovechkin to take the physical punishment that goes with the NHL. He based his assessment on Ovechkin injuring a shoulder in the World Junior championships in 2004.

The Caps rookie never responded. Last night he let actions do the talking as he took on Richards. The Flyer won the fight but Ovechkin answered a lot of questions around the NHL about his physical makeup and whether he would stand up when needed.

Washington throttled the Flyers 6-1 in an exhibition game, its second win in four games. Special teams played a huge role as the Caps dominated against an opponent that has given them fits for 33 years.

But it probably was the last action for some in Washington uniforms this season. The Caps have 27 on the roster and would like to get to, or very close to, the opening day limit of 23 or less some time today. Club officials gave no hint last night what players were in danger of getting cut.

One thing is certain, the coaches will be happy to have a definitive roster so they can focus on areas where work is badly needed. The top priority is special teams with emphasis on penalty killing in spite of what happened last night.

The fisticuffs started at 10:28 of the first period when Flyers defenseman Denis Gauthier rammed Washington center Jakub Klepis into the boards. Ovechkin was on the spot in an instant, but instead of going after Gauthier, he went after Richards. It wasn’t much of a fight as these things go, but Ovechkin needed no help. He stood his ground, exchanged blows and served his time.

Brian Sutherby tried to make a point with Richards five seconds into the second period but the Flyer turned turtle. Sutherby drew three minors, a rare sentence. Ben Clymer took a minor before Sutherby was free. The Flyers had a two-man advantage but Washington had the only goal — shorthanded — during the seven minutes it was killing penalties.

The Flyers, already down by four, were unable to score on continuous power plays of that length and the Caps took the victory.

Richard Zednik and Matt Bradley had even-strength goals for the Caps in a game filled with penalties. Jamie Heward, Mike Green, Sutherby (shorthanded) and Kris Beech had power play scores for Washington, which had excellent goaltending from Olie Kolzig

Today’s cuts could be difficult because some of the players thought to be on the bubble had good nights against the Flyers, while others who appear to have locked up spots had average nights, but will survive.

With young players like Klepis, Tomas Fleischmann, Green, Jeff Schultz and maybe others pushing hard for jobs, some veterans might be in trouble. The team may opt to absorb some guaranteed salaries to open spots for young players who seemingly have earned a shot at the NHL.

Notes — Ovechkin and seven teammates will attend tonight’s Nationals game and sign autographs on the concourse between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. Ovechkin will throw out the first pitch. …

The Caps’ annual charity golf tournament will be Monday at Springfield Golf and Country Club. Registration is at 11:30 a.m. Play starts 90 minutes later.

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