- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2013

TAMPA, Fla. — As he talked about watching the replay of Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson suffering a torn left Achilles tendon from a skate blade, Washington Capitals forward Matt Hendricks took the tape off his right foot to reveal a scar. That’s where he got cut by an opposing goaltender’s skate during his sophomore year at St. Cloud State.

“I think the scariest part was I’m looking down at my skate and I don’t see anything wrong,” Hendricks said. “And I feel a lot of pain from it but you can’t see it. It’s not like when you get cut on the face where you can immediately tell that there’s a problem. So that’s scary.”

It was scary for Hendricks and others around the Caps to see what happened to Karlsson on Wednesday night. The Senators defenseman tore 70 percent of his left Achilles tendon and is out three to four months as a result of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke inadvertently slicing his left skate into the back of Karlsson’s leg.

“Obviously it’s unfortunate, I think, and nothing you want to see out there,” said Caps center and fellow Swede Nicklas Backstrom, who knows Karlsson. “I feel sorry for him.”

Caps coach Adam Oates called it “kind of fluky” and a “freak” accident. Hendricks said there was no way to think Cooke did it intentionally.

But in the aftermath of Karlsson’s injury, the conversation turned to safety. Karlsson and a majority of players wear regular, lightweight hockey socks. Some, like the Caps’ Alex Ovechkin, Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle, wear socks reinforced with Kevlar.

“It used to be something I never really thought about, but the last couple years there’s been a lot of injuries involving skates,” Fehr said. “Definitely one of the scarier injuries, so it’s better to protect yourself, I think, if you can.”

It’s not fool-proof, as evidenced by a cut Fehr suffered last season above where the protection was that required stitches.

“You move those over a couple of inches and it can cut some pretty big arteries,” he said. “It’s pretty scary, obviously, but I do what I can to protect myself.

Even though he doesn’t use Kevlar socks, Hendricks began wearing his shin pads over his skates after getting cut in college. Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne told Elliotte Friedman of “Hockey Night in Canada” that maybe Kevlar-reinforced socks should be mandatory.

They aren’t yet, but Karlsson’s injury could prompt Backstrom to consider making the switch.

“You’ve got to be aware those kind of things can happen to you,” Backstrom said. “I don’t know, maybe I’ll try it.”

Hamrlik proud of Lightning past

Caps defenseman Roman Hamrlik was the first pick in the history of the Tampa Bay Lightning. With the team celebrating its 20th anniversary, the 38-year-old Hamrlik is proud of how far the team has come.

“In the beginning it was really hard. I was young, I don’t know where I’m coming from; early in my career I didn’t know much about the league, I didn’t know about the language and it was really difficult for me. And we were losing,” Hamrlik said. “We were expansion team and now they have really good team. They build really good team over the years.”

Since Hamrlik’s 5½ years with Tampa Bay, the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and built a burgeoning hockey market in a nontraditional place. Looking back, he’s proud to have been one of the building blocks.

“It’s great honor,” Hamrlik said. “But it was expansion team, I was No. 1 guy, so lots of people were expecting for me lots of things. I had such good years here, four, five years. Obviously I take the pride, yeah. I’m thankful to the Lightning to choose me and give me opportunity to play here.”

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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