Chris Clark hoped to be cleared to play by the end of this month with a return from wrist surgery targeted for sometime during a potential second-round series.
After a visit to the doctor Tuesday, Clark’s timetable may have changed. Dr. Richard Barth cleared the Washington Capitals’ captain to play immediately. He was not in the lineup Wednesday night for Game 1 against the New York Rangers, but he will return to full practice Thursday and could play at some point in this Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
“I wanted to know if I could do more in practice like some of the battling drills,” Clark said. He said, ‘Yeah, you can do that.’ Near the end he said, ‘Well, if I think you can do that, then you should be able to play, so go ahead.’ ”
Clark has missed much of the past two seasons with injuries. Last season, Clark was limited to 18 games - first because of a lacerated ear caused by an Alex Ovechkin slap shot and then a frustrating groin tendon injury that wouldn’t heal.
This year, Clark was dogged by a wrist problem from the outset. He tried to play through it, but that proved ineffective and the pain worsened. He had one goal in 32 games, and opted for surgery on a torn tendon sheath. He hasn’t played since Jan. 27.
“I don’t have that extreme sharp pain that I had every time I shot the puck or stickhandled and I would just pass it,” Clark said. “It got to the point where anything I did - even in the splint - was just too much. That’s all gone now for the most part. There is only a little bit of stiffness and soreness, but with time that will go away, and I’m not doing any harm to it.”
Pressure on Caps
Rangers coach John Tortorella has no problem with his team opening up on the postseason on the road.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure on the home team to win those first two games,” he said after Wednesday morning’s skate. “[On the road], we’re all together, we’re not spread out.”
Analyzing the series, Tortorella said goalies Henrik Lundqvist and Jose Theodore are the keys. Even before coming to the Rangers, Tortorella was a fan of Lundqvist.
“I just like his fight,” he said. “How he carries himself and he does make some pretty good saves along the way. If we’re going to compete in this series and try to find our way, he’s going to have to be our best player just as Theodore has to be their best player. That’s just the lay of the land in the NHL - goaltending is that important.”
Claiming to know “not a damn thing about goaltending,” Tortorella was asked about Theodore.
“I have my thoughts, I’m not going to give them to you. I’ll leave it at that,” he said.
McGuire on Backstrom
Count NBC and TSN analyst Pierre McGuire as a fan of Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom’s.
“Right from the beginning, he’s had a tremendous hockey IQ,” McGuire said. “You knew it would translate to pro hockey - he understands offense, defense and how to make the players around him better. Tremendous passer and an unbelievable scorer. You can’t teach that; guys either have that or they don’t. The star players have that - composure with the puck when the pressure was on.
“Nicklas’ strength as a player is more distributing than finishing. Why him, [Alex] Ovechkin and [Viktor] Kozlov is a good line is because you have the size of Kozlov, the speed of Ovechkin and the unbelievable creativity of Backstrom.”
Rangers captain Chris Drury did not play because of an undisclosed injury. He was held out of the team’s final regular-season game to rest multiple reported ailments, but he had practiced Tuesday and was on the ice for warmups. The Rangers said he probably will play Game 2 on Saturday.
Caps enforcer Donald Brashear also did not play. Defenseman Brian Pothier was a healthy scratch.