Although he had been expected to play tonight, Tim Gleason
’s injury is worse than initially feared, which will cause him to miss approximately three weeks.
Gleason broke a bone in his foot Saturday against Phoenix, but managed to finish that game and then play regular minutes against Boston on Tuesday in true Tim Gleason
fashion. However, his condition has not improved.
”The increase in pain is way beyond what you would expect a person to play with,” said coach Paul Maurice. “Unfortunately it’s even beyond what Tim Gleason
can play with, because he can play with just about anything.”
If Gleason were to return exactly three weeks from today, he would be able to play in the team’s final two regular season games against Montreal and Boston. Although that’s cutting it close, Maurice said that he would still like the defenseman to return if possible.
”He’s going to train like he’s coming back for the last games of the season because that would be around that window if the healing is really good and he’s healthy,” said Maurice. “We’re clearly not going to push him back into the lineup before he’s ready now, but if he’s healthy then he’ll play.”
For tonight, Gleason’s injury means that the team will not have to scratch a healthy defenseman from their lineup, as Maurice yesterday indicated would likely be the case. Jamie McBain
will play his second NHL game and likely more as the Hurricanes finish out the last 13 games of their schedule.
That Gleason was able to finish the Phoenix game without any indication he was hurt and then play over 18 minutes two nights later contributes to the impressive list of instances when he has played through pain. Two of those came against tonight’s opponent, the Washington Capitals. First, he returned after a knee-on-knee hit from Alex Ovechkin on November 30 that saw the star forward suspended. Then, he came back to score the shorthanded, game-tying goal after an Ovechkin shot hit him in the face less than two weeks later.
”It was an admirable performance,” said Maurice of Gleason’s most recent episode.
Speaking of Ovechkin suspensions, the NHL’s scoring leader will miss tonight’s game as the second of a two-game ban for boarding Chicago’s Brian Campbell. It’s easy to rejoice in the fact that the Capitals won’t have their best player, but that has been little comfort for opponents thus far. In the game and a half since his ejection and subsequent suspension, the Capitals have outscored opponents 11-5 en route to a pair of victories. Most recently, they took an easy 7-3 decision over Florida Tuesday night.
”I talked to the Florida Panthers coach because he had faced the Ovechkin-less Washington Capitals I think three times this year and got the doors blown off them each time,” said Maurice, referring to his good friend Peter DeBoer. “He was less pleased to see that (Ovechkin) wasn’t going to be in the lineup.”
The moral of the story is that while Ovechkin is easily one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league, the Capitals didn’t earn the NHL’s best record through his efforts alone. Nicklas Backstrom, who plays in Ovechkin’s shadow in Washington but is a legitimate star in his own right, has five points in his last two games and was the driving force behind the team’s comeback win in Chicago over the weekend.
That presents a stiff test for Carolina’s Justin Peters
, who gets the start in goal tonight. Maurice is particularly interested to see how the 23-year-old responds to a reasonable amount of adversity, having not played his strongest game in the 4-0 loss to Phoenix.
”He’s coming off a game where he gave up some he’d like to have back, which came off an outstanding performance,” said Maurice. “These are the learning curves and the thing a young goaltender needs to go through.The Capitals are likely to use rookie Semyon Varlamov in goal
despite a run of good results for starter Jose Theodore. Forward Boyd Gordon is out with a back injury
, making a safer bet that Scott Walker will join Joe Corvo as former Hurricanes in the lineup for Washington tonight. With a glut of healthy forwards, the Capitals have been rotating healthy scratches, with Walker sitting out three times already, including each of the last two games.