- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Four times in the past seven contests, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau has scratched captain Chris Clark from the lineup.

Clark won’t be referred to as a healthy scratch again anytime soon, though. The right wrist injury he suffered in training camp will force him to have surgery Thursday, a team spokesman confirmed, meaning he likely will miss the rest of the regular season and possibly the playoffs.

“The wrist has been bothering him all year,” Caps general manager George McPhee said after practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “There is a chance he could be back for the playoffs, so we’re probably going to go [the surgery] route rather than to have him continue to try and play through it.”

Clark has played in 32 games this season but has only one goal and six points - far off the 30-goal, 54-point campaign he had in 2006-07. That output earned him a three-year, $7.9 million contract extension that runs through 2010-11.

After Clark potted 20 and 30 goals in his first two seasons with the Caps, his next two were wrecked by injuries. Last season, Clark missed eight games after taking an Alex Ovechkin slap shot off his ear and 56 of the final 57 contests of the regular season with a perplexing groin tendon injury.

The groin hasn’t been a problem this season, but his wrist has. After playing through the pain for the regular season’s first month, he was scratched from the lineup Nov. 8 against the New York Rangers. In late November, he went on long-term injured reserve with what was called a stress fracture in his right forearm, missing 14 games. Since he returned in late December, he has played with a soft cast on his right wrist.

“It’s got everything to do with [his lack of production],” McPhee said. “We admire his competitiveness and willingness to play through pain, but it is not the Chris Clark we know. He’s had a tough time taking a pass, making a pass and shooting the puck.

“He has no dexterity. … When you see a guy like that who can really shoot the puck - especially wrist shots - shooting slap shots, you know there is a problem.”

Clark was named Washington’s captain in September 2006. He’s not necessarily known as a fiery orator, but his teammates tout his work ethic and willingness to sacrifice.

“[Clark] is a hard-working guy, and he’s definitely the type of guy who would try to play through an injury,” forward Matt Bradley said. “If he is out for a while, it is going to be a big blow to us. Not only on the ice but off the ice he is a great leader. He’s our captain, and we’re a better team with him around.”

Should Clark return to long-term injured reserve, the Caps again would have enough wiggle room under the salary cap to recall defenseman Karl Alzner, whose $1.675 million hit is too much for the Caps when they are at full strength.

The player likely to receive increased playing time is Eric Fehr, who has been the right wing on the second line in the past two games. Playing with Nicklas Backstrom and Tomas Fleischmann, Fehr had five shots against Detroit on Saturday and registered his fourth goal of the season against Ottawa on Sunday.

“You don’t want to see your captain go down like that,” Fehr said. “I feel bad for the guy. His groin was just starting to feel good, and he’s trying to come back - and now his wrist is bothering him. At the same time, I am going to try and fill the void the best I can if the coach puts me in that position.”

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