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Capitals' Clark eager for Game 7 return

Tuesday, 04.28.2009 / 12:39 PM / 2009 Playoffs Conference Quarterfinals

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

WASHINGTON -- It's looking more and more likely that the Washington Capitals will have a key component back in their lineup for Game 7 Tuesday night at Verizon Center against the New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS).

How about their captain?

"I was told, 'Be ready' -- same as (Monday)," Washington captain Chris Clark said Tuesday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., where the team went through one final workout before its do-or-die Game 7 against the Rangers. "Hopefully I have a lot more jump. It's been a long time since I've played."

Clark last played on Jan. 27 against the Boston Bruins. He had a wrist injury that required surgery and has been out since. He was cleared to play before the series began, but at the time Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said he was still a week to 10 days away.

With Donald Brashear sidelined thanks to the six-game suspension imposed by NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell, Boudreau has to choose between the slick Michael Nylander or the gutsy Clark to take his spot. While he wouldn't give it away totally Tuesday morning, all signs point to Clark being Boudreau's choice. He brings a little more jam to his game and that physical presence is always a necessity in any Game 7.

"There's a good chance," Boudreau said of if Clark would play. "I told Michael (Nylander) to be ready, too. Michael and Chris will both take the warm-up. We'll see how it goes."

Boudreau doesn't think Clark will feel any rust despite not playing for three months.
 
"There's a difference between being fresh and being rusty -- if he plays," Boudreau said. "Anybody who is put into a Game 7, they're not feeling any rust. They're feeling energy. They're feeling excitement like the rest of us."

It's been a rough two years for Clark, who has played in only 50 games since the start of the 2007-08 season due to various injuries. He sat out the Capitals' playoff series against Philadelphia last season with a groin injury.

Ironically, though, the last playoff game he participated in was a Game 7, but that was in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final when he played for the Calgary Flames. Of course, the Flames lost that game to Tampa Bay.

"It's been a long time," Clark said. "It's almost been like having a second summer. I thought last year I was going to come back, too (for the playoffs). This year, hopefully it will come true."

As for motivational speeches before Tuesday's game, Boudreau doesn't know if there is a need to give one.

"Quite frankly, how much is there to say?" he said. "When you're growing up on the playgrounds and the ice rinks, you're always thinking, 'Game 7, for the Cup.' This is not quite going for the Cup, but it's a Game 7. They'll all be excited to play."
 
"It should be a heck of a game."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com



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