- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Stanley Cup playoffs begin Wednesday for the Washington Capitals, which means the intensity is ratcheted up, fans will explode the first time Alex Ovechkin launches himself into the glass after a goal and the Caps - like every other postseason club - again will engage in a longtime NHL tradition.

Hiding injuries.

The practice of treating every injury, minor or major, as a state secret will start as soon as the puck drops for Game 1 at Verizon Center.

Brooks Laich takes a slap shot off his ankle during a key penalty kill and crawls to the bench? “Lower-body injury.”

Mike Green catapults shoulder-first into the end boards to get an icing call? “Upper-body injury.”

Jose Theodore bruises his ribs after he's run over by Sean Avery? “General soreness.”

“For whatever reason, people like to keep stuff hidden,” said Caps defenseman Tom Poti, who's nursing a groin injury.

Gamesmanship - from what time the visiting team is allowed to practice to the matching of scoring lines against defensive combinations and injury-report revelations - is one of the postseason's great subplots.

You have a better chance of getting President Obama's BlackBerry number than ascertaining the Caps' and Rangers' injury lists halfway through the series.

”You don't want to give anything away,” Laich said after practice Tuesday. “I'm sure every player at this time of the year is battling through something, and after 82 games I don't think anybody is 100 percent healthy.”

The current Caps injury list is short: Poti, Boyd Gordon (finger), Donald Brashear (knee), Brent Johnson (hip) and Chris Clark (wrist). It will remain short the rest of the postseason.

A day after they were eliminated by the Flyers last season, the Caps revealed that Shaone Morrisonn played with a broken jaw, Gordon a torn hamstring, Green a hip pointer and Ovechkin “nagging” injuries.

Each player appeared in all seven games of the series, and only an in-game trip to the locker room for repairs or a postgame ice pack gave hints of how much pain players were experiencing.

All of this chicanery is allowed by the NHL.

The league's general managers last fall approved a rule that required no injury information to be revealed. The NFL maintains a relatively open injury policy because of gambling. But since only degenerates bet on hockey, the GMs defend the rule by saying it's for player safety, adding that opponents will target a player if they know the details of his injury.

The Devils described an injury to goalie Martin Brodeur as a “bruised elbow.” He underwent surgery for a torn biceps tendon and missed several months.

The Islanders listed goalie Rick DiPietro as “day to day” because of a “lower-body” injury, later conceding that he underwent knee surgery and would miss four to six weeks.

And Minnesota scorer Marian Gaborik missed more than 25 games with a “lower-body” injury that forced surgery.

Opinions were split in the Caps locker room. Some players think teams would target an injured player; one said it's relatively rare.

Laich: “You don't want to lead on that you have a sore shoulder or something else and have teams play you more physical. You try to keep everything in house.”

David Steckel: “Guys can take advantage if you know where you're hurting, especially if you're a game-changing or series-changing type of player.”

Poti: “If I know a guy has a sore elbow, I don't think it will be a situation where I'll make sure to go after him.”

You won't know about the injuries until after the Caps' season is over, but it's guaranteed that by the end of Game 3 guys will be hurting - and still playing.

“In the playoffs, it seems that no matter how severe your injuries are, you're going to play through it,” defenseman Jeff Schultz said.

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