- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The upper-body strain afflicting Alex Ovechkin apparently is contagious. The Capitals have been straining with his medical evaluation the last two days.

Their franchise player has fallen and no one can get up the nerve to speak plainly.

Ovechkin is either day-to-day, week-to-week or month-to-month with whatever strained upper-body part it is.

The latter remains unclear, the upper body covering a broad range of potential problem areas, including shoulder, arm, chest, neck and abdomen.

Or Ovechkin merely could have a bad boo-boo on his elbow.

What we’ve got here with the Caps is a failure to communicate, to paraphrase the Captain in “Cool Hand Luke.”

Bruce Boudreau has been at a loss since Ovechkin skated off the ice in pain in Tony Cheng’s neighborhood Sunday night.

“I haven’t seen him, and no one is here right now, so I can’t give you an update,” Boudreau said Monday, no doubt unaware of the advantages of communication by phone.

There also is this powerfully addictive thing called text messaging, if Boudreau is interested in learning when the two-time NHL MVP will return to the ice.

He could try smoke signals, too.

At this point in the obfuscation, any form of communication beats the Sgt. Schultz know-nothing approach.

You might think a coach would be obsessed with knowing the extent of his franchise player’s injury.

Given an additional 24 hours to uncover the more telling details of the upper-body strain, Boudreau was no more enlightened Tuesday.

Is Ovechkin destined to be out two weeks, two months or two years? A hint, anyone?

“I don’t have a clue,” Boudreau said, with no one ready to argue the point. “I know it’s an upper-body strain, but I don’t know what that means.”

If he does not know what that means, where does that leave the rest of us - besides scratching our heads?

You could do no worse soliciting the insight of a tarot-card reader.

Or you could sit down with a psychic.

Just to be clear on where he is with Ovechkin’s injury, Boudreau said, “I’m taking myself out of the equation.”

That is just great.

Boudreau is either not on speaking terms with the team trainer or he is channeling a variation of the injury-report tactics of Ernie Grunfeld, who at least is consistent with his optimism.

One of the Wizards could be consigned to an intensive-care unit in a full-body cast after being run over by a bus, and Grunfeld would declare him as day-to-day after examining him by stethoscope.

While Grunfeld tabulates the absences of players in dog weeks - a one-week absence is seven - Boudreau embraces the unknowingness of it all.

If he does not know how badly Ovechkin is ailing, then that means the ogres who want to blast him into the boards do not know.

Here is what Boudreau does know: “When he comes back, he’ll be healthy.”

If he ever comes back.

That possibility has to be considered as well, considering all the murky elements and back and forth.

Ovechkin is as uncertain about the injury as Boudreau, and it is his injury. He just knows it hurts somewhere.

Asked whether he would go into detail on his upper-body strain, Ovechkin said, “No.”

He was equally noncommittal about a timetable.

“Day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, we’ll see,” he said.

Boudreau sees a positive in all this. The Caps can show the NHL that they are more than the Washington Ovechkins.

“We want to prove we’re a good hockey club, and with Alex being out, we have that chance,” Boudreau said.

Or Ovechkin could be on the ice tonight.

A potentially career-ending upper-body strain is a funny thing.

One day you are week-to-week or year-to-year, the pain so unbearable you do not know what is what, and the next day, miraculously, you make a complete recovery.

Just leave Boudreau out of it.

He knows nothing. Nothing.

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