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Caps' star feeling fine

by John Kreiser / NHL.com

"He'll be OK. He'll be playing Friday. It's nothing serious at all, but, I mean, it would be prudent for me not to say why he went off." -- Bruce Boudreau

Some reflections as teams make some final tweaks to their rosters before today's deadline.

He'll be ready -- Calm down, Washington fans.

Yes, Alex Ovechkin left practice early Tuesday. The Capitals, though, say he'll be ready to go when they open their season Friday in Atlanta.

Ovechkin skated off the ice Tuesday after less than 15 minutes and didn't return.

"He'll be OK," coach Bruce Boudreau said at the Capitals' media day event. "He'll be playing Friday. It's nothing serious at all, but, I mean, it would be prudent for me not to say why he went off."

Alexander Semin, perhaps the Caps' second-biggest offensive threat, also left the ice early but also is expected to be ready to go Friday. The team said both players are dealing with nagging injuries. That had better be the case, because the Caps aren't going anywhere if Ovechkin misses any significant amount of time.

Getting his "C" back -- Scott Niedermayer is the once and future captain of the Anaheim Ducks.

Niedermayer captained the Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup, but gave up the captaincy when he spent the first couple of months of the 2007-08 season deciding whether he wanted to retire. In the meantime, Chris Pronger was named captain, and stayed in that role when Niedermayer decided to play again.

The Ducks announced Tuesday, however, that Niedermayer will return to the role of captain, with Pronger and forward Ryan Getzlaf serving as alternates.

"Scotty is a tremendous leader and has been for his entire career," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "He has a unique personality in that he has the ability to settle things down."
Don't expect a lot of changes -- the Ducks are one of the most experienced teams in the NHL and have an abundance of leadership, no matter who wears the "C."

"I would expect Chris to be the same person he was last year or the year before that," Niedermayer said. "Neither of us, I think, is going to change in any real way. I think we both would respect each other no matter who had the 'C.' I don't think there's an issue at all. I would expect it’s probably not going to change anybody on this team.”

Niedermayer served as captain after signing with the Ducks for the 2005-06 season. He also was captain in New Jersey, where he played on three Cup winners.

Lucky Luke -- Jeff Finger's sore knee was Luke Schenn's ticket to the NHL.

With Finger slated to miss at least a week with a knee injury that kept him off the ice for most of the preseason, the Toronto Maple Leafs had room on the blue line and signed Schenn, the fifth pick of the 2008 Entry Draft, to a contract Tuesday.

"Luke's got a bright future in the NHL and we are very excited to have him signed to a contract," Maple Leafs General Manager Cliff Fletcher said. "He had a great training camp during which he demonstrated a lot of poise and skill for a young defenseman."

The Leafs can play the 18-year-old for nine games before they have to decide whether to keep him or return him to his junior team, the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.

The decision to keep Schenn is part of a youth movement in Toronto. The Maple Leafs also decided to keep defenseman Jonas Frogren, who will make his NHL debut after playing 10 seasons in Europe, along with 23-year-old center John Mitchell and 24-year-old defenseman Ian White. Forward Boyd Devereaux and defenseman Staffan Kronwall were placed on waivers. The Leafs had waived forward Mark Bell on Monday.

 
 
"Those decisions are always difficult because when you get down to the bottom end of the roster like that, the players are pretty close," Fletcher said. "We opted to go younger as opposed to going with the veteran. If he clears waivers, it doesn't mean he's going anywhere."

Comings and going -- The Leafs weren't the only team putting vets on waivers. Vancouver waived forwards Jason Krog and Matt Pettinger, San Jose placed defenseman Kyle McLaren on waivers, Detroit waived defenseman Aaron Downey and Boston waived forwards Peter Schaefer and Jeremy Reich. Calgary waived defensemen Anders Eriksson and Rhett Warriner and forward Jamie Lundmark.

Anaheim, which lost left wing Joakim Lindstrom on a waiver claim to Chicago last week, reclaimed him Tuesday and sent him to Iowa of the American Hockey League.

Players who clear waivers likely will end up in the minors.

Back to the future
-- Kevin Lowe, now Edmonton's president of hockey operations, scored the franchise's first NHL goal, Oct. 10, 1979, while wearing a bright blue, orange and white sweater. Tuesday, to celebrate their 30th NHL season, the Oilers unveiled their new third jersey -- a replica of the ones they wore that night and well into the 1990s.
"It's terrific that the original uniform is being brought back and celebrated. All of the things we take so much pride in today were accomplished in that uniform and I think fans deserve to see their team, and especially their favorite players on this year’s team, in those colors." – Oilers GM Kevin Lowe
The Oilers will wear their third jersey 14 times this season, including the home opener against Colorado on Sunday. The team also will have special gloves, helmets, pants and socks to re-create the full look of the 1980s and early 1990s.

"It's terrific that the original uniform is being brought back and celebrated," said Lowe. "All of the things we take so much pride in today were accomplished in that uniform and I think fans deserve to see their team, and especially their favorite players on this year’s team, in those colors."

Now if Lowe only could get back some of the bodies who used to wear those colors …

"Bulin Wall" still stands -- It looks like goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin will start the season with the Chicago Blackhawks after all.

Chicago signed Cristobal Huet to a five-year contract during the summer, and Khabibulin did not play in any of Chicago's preseason games. He was placed on waivers but not claimed, but Tuesday the Blackhawks sent rookie Antti Niemi to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs, clearing a space for Khabibulin, who practiced with the Blackhawks at the team's suburban Chicago facility Tuesday after not being on the ice for Saturday's session.

Khabibulin is on the final season of a four-year deal he signed in 2004, after he led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup.

Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon and coach Denis Savard maintain they planned to start the season with the "luxury" of two No. 1 goalies.

"The best goaltender is going to play," Tallon said. "Nick knows that and I know that."

Khabibulin could play soon -- the Blackhawks open their season with three games in four nights, beginning Friday against the Rangers in New York.

"Nick is with us," Savard said. "It's going to be day-by-day for both goaltenders. Khabby and Dale had a great talk and we're happy to have him."



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