- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Most of the Washington Capitals did not participate in the morning skate before Game 7 tonight, but one player lingered on the ice longer than everyone else.

That guy was Michael Nylander, who hasn’t ruled out a return this postseason from shoulder surgery should the Caps keep playing.

Definitely, Nylander said when asked whether he thinks he can play again this season. We are just taking it day-by-day, but so far it is ahead of schedule. I want to take it day-by-day and practice more and more and just try to get back in shape and have everything ready to play.

Nylander had surgery to repair three different things in his left shoulder in mid-January, one of which was a torn rotator cuff. The Caps said he would be out four to six months, and general manager George McPhee has said Nylander would not return this season.

But Nylander has skated regularly and said he has steadily increased his workouts. He had the surgery four months ago.

It has been positive every time I went to the doctor, and I am very excited about the situation and the team, Nylander said. It has been unbelievably exciting time for the team. It went all the way down to the last game [to make the playoffs], and it was tough. It was even tougher to sit outside and watch. You want to be in there playing, but it is exciting.

Nylander signed a four-year, $19.5 million contract with the Caps in July. He had 11 goals and 37 points in 40 games this season, but he also was a minus-19. The shoulder problems limited his ability to battle in the corners.

I feel like normal again, Nylander said. I will be able to just go out and play without hesitation or any restriction. It feels good, and I hope it continues.

Buckeyes connection

Tonight was one more chance for a pair of old college buddies to square off. Washington’s David Steckel and Philadelphia’s R.J. Umberger spent two years together at the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., and then three years at Ohio State.

I talked to him up until Game 3 or 4, Steckel said. We didn’t talk much during the year, but a few days before when we knew we were going to play each other, we had quite a long conversation. I got a text from him when I scored [in Game 1], and I sent him one after he scored [in Game 2]. Other than that, we haven’t talked the past few games since it has gotten a little more intense.

With the Buckeyes, Steckel and Umberger both first-round picks in 2001 normally centered different lines but would be paired together when the team trailed or needed an offensive jolt.

Vancouver drafted Umberger at 16th overall and eventually traded him to Philadelphia, while Steckel went 30th overall to Los Angeles but did not sign and eventually signed with the Caps.

He was a great player, even when I played on Team USA and then in college, Steckel said. He was often head and shoulders above the rest. When he left [after his junior year at Ohio State], it was his decision. We would have liked to have had him one more year, but it was the right decision for him.

Downie debuts

Flyers forward Steve Downie was inserted into the lineup for the first time this series.

Downie, who received a 20-game suspension for a preseason hit on Ottawa’s Dean McAmmond, had six goals and six assists in 32 games for Philadelphia. He replaced Riley Cote, who played less than six minutes in Game 6.

Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz missed his fourth straight game because of back spasms. Defenseman Tom Poti played last night after getting hit with a stick in the back of the head in the third period of Game 6.

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