- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Washington Capitals’ goaltender roulette wheel seems to have taken another turn, with Michal Neuvirth missing some practice time with an injury.

“He tweaked something, so better be safe than sorry,” said coach Bruce Boudreau, who wouldn’t specify the nature of the injury.

Neuvirth was on the ice at the start of practice Saturday but left minutes later. Boudreau said the injury was the reason Neuvirth didn’t back up Jose Theodore in New York on Thursday but added he didn’t believe it was serious.

“I haven’t talked to [trainer Greg Smith] about it too much. We’ll see [Sunday] how it unfolds,” Boudreau said. “He didn’t come in for treatments [Saturday] - just thought he tweaked something.”

Semyon Varlamov will start Sunday’s preseason finale at Verizon Center against the Rangers.

Collins clears waivers

The Caps are down to nine defensemen in camp after putting Sean Collins on waivers. And while a team spokesman said Collins is likely to be assigned to Hershey, Boudreau cited a surplus of players in practice as a reason for putting Collins on waivers. Boudreau mentioned the Caps will make a decision on his future Monday.

With Collins gone, the competition is heating up for the final roster spots on the blue line.

“I’ve thought it’s been crunch time since pretty much the day camp started,” Karl Alzner said. “It’s always been a battle for me every day, and now it’s time where I come to the rink realizing every day could be my last day, but I try not to play like that.”

Alzner is battling with Tyler Sloan for a chance to make the team, and Boudreau said both have reason to be “concerned” because neither was among the Caps’ top seven defensemen last year.

It is conceivable Washington could keep eight defensemen to start the season, although Boudreau wasn’t enthusiastic about that being the case. If it comes down to those two defensemen, Sloan’s NHL contract (which carries with it a need to clear waivers) vs. Alzner’s two-way deal might be a factor - and both players have thought about how that could affect the situation.

“I can’t control that, so I’m not gonna worry about things I can’t control,” Sloan said. “So I’ll just wait and see what happens the next couple days and go from there.”

Bourque to return

Forward Chris Bourque will be in the lineup Sunday, trying to bounce back from a head/neck injury suffered Monday against the Sabres. Since he’s competing with Alexandre Giroux, Quintin Laing and Keith Aucoin for possibly one of the two final lineup spots at forward, it’s one of Bourque’s last chances to show he belongs with the Caps.

“I just feel like I need to contribute, at least get in a game and show ‘em that I’m ready for the regular season,” Bourque said.

Fehr not cleared

Injured right wing Eric Fehr, trying to rebound from surgeries on both shoulders, underwent another physical but was not cleared for full-contact practice.

“I got really close this time. It was definitely an improvement from the last time a week earlier,” he said. “I’m definitely getting close and feeling stronger on the ice and getting into a few more drills. Hopefully, within the next couple days I can give it another try.”

Opening night might not be feasible, but Fehr said he was pushing to return sometime in early October.

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