- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2012

The hardest part for Jay Beagle wasn’t finishing Game 5 of the Washington Capitals’ series against the New York Rangers on a broken foot.

It was taking his equipment off before Game 6 and then having to watch from home as he and his teammates were eliminated in Game 7.

Anton Stralman’s slap shot in the second period of Game 5 hit Beagle on a bone in his left foot, but he didn’t leave the game.

“I love to play and obviously in the playoffs it’s do or die, desperation hockey. I wasn’t going to leave my team a man-short in the game,” Beagle said. “You gut through it and know that the pain will be over soon and just kind of get through it.”

Beagle gutted through it and almost went onto the ice for warmups before Game 6. That’s when coach Dale Hunter and trainer Greg Smith decided that the 26-year-old forward couldn’t go.

The next day, he had surgery to repair the break and estimated Monday that he’d start working out in four to six weeks and be skating in eight to 10 weeks. Beagle said he would be healthy for training camp.

But the scene of him trying to skate on a broken foot was “encouraging” to the Caps, especially after seeing Beagle already miss time with a concussion before becoming a breakout performer in the playoffs.

“You know the guy wants to win, you know he wants to play his heart out for his teammates. That all you can ask for out of a teammate,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “He tried to strap it on for Game 6, but we could see that it was killing him not to be out there. … A guy like that, you don’t find too many of them. He’s a great teammate.”

Vokoun won’t be back

Braden Holtby’s emergence figures to make him the leading candidate to be the starting goaltender next season, and though Michal Neuvirth talked about wanting to compete for the job, Tomas Vokoun said he won’t be back.

And that has little to do with Holtby’s playoff run.

“I wasn’t planning on being back here, anyways,” Vokoun said. “For me, it was never my intention to be here more than a year. For me, it’s more disappointing about how it went and obviously getting hurt and not having the chance to play in the playoffs. That’s what I regret more than worrying about what’s going to be next year. I was looking at it as a one-year thing, and I’m sure that’s how it’s going to be.”

Vokoun suffered a torn groin muscle in late February and aggravated it twice in March. The 35-year-old is healthy now heading into unrestricted free agency July 1.

There was a report out of Vokoun’s native Czech Republic speculating that he would be joining the new Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, though his camp denied that a deal was done.

Knuble, Halpern want to play

Mike Knuble and Jeff Halpern spent stretches as healthy scratches this season, though the 39-year-old alternate captain and 35-year-old former captain said Monday they both want to play next season.

“I’m open to playing. I’d love to play. I feel good; my body feels good and I’ve got nothing nagging me,” said Knuble, whose streak of eight 20-goal seasons ended. “Mentally, too, I still enjoy playing the game, and I still enjoy coming out to the rink every day, and I enjoy being around the other players and I think that that’s half the battle, wanting to be there, as you get older.”

Asked about returning to the Caps, Knuble said he recognized “there a lot of people to be taken care of before me.”

Halpern plans on being in the NHL next season, but his comments made it seem like that won’t happen in Washington.

“I’ll talk to George [McPhee], I would expect. And I’m sure that we’ll be honest with each other in our year-end meetings and go from there,” Halpern said. “I was pretty happy up until a couple months ago with how I played. And whatever happens in a summer, you go through it and take it from there.”

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