After being scratched for both games this past weekend, Capitals Captain Chris Clark was a notable absence from this morning's optional practice.
Usually, when a player isn't in the lineup, they are out during practices like this so they can get extra work in. So when No. 17 was nowhere to be found, a buzz started circulating around the team's beat reporters.
The suspicions were later confirmed by general manager George McPhee: "He went to see a doctor today. The wrist has been bothering him all year," he said. "He will probably have to have something done (surgery) on his wrist."
It's a difficult way to end a second straight frustrating season for Clark. After scoring a career-high 30 goals and 54 points during the '06-'07 campaign, he missed 64 games last year with a recurring groin injury.
With his groin finally back to full strength, Clark hoped he would be able to return to form this season. But an injury to his right wrist which he suffered, according to the Washington Post's Tarik El-Bashir, during training camp limited his effectiveness. He managed only one goal and six points in 32 games.
"We admire his competitiveness and his ability to play through pain. But it's not the Chris Clark we know. He's having a tough time making a pass, taking a pass, and shooting the puck," McPhee said. "It just got to the point where he wasn't the player we know he is. [He was] hurting himself and hurting the team."
The move to end Clark's season will clear up some significant salary space for the cap-strapped team. Their captain was making $2.75 million, so his move to the long-term injury list will remove that number from the team's total.
It's a substantial amount that should allow the Caps to make a few moves for their playoff run.
Top defensive prospect Karl Alzner, who was demoted last week to Hershey in part because the team could not fit his $1.6 million salary under the cap, could be a huge beneficiary of this move. Or, the team could look outside the organization like they did last season (Sergei Fedorov, Matt Cooke, and Cristobal Huet) in order to add some key players for the postseason.
Meanwhile, the time off should give Clark the ability to once again regroup and enter the '09-'10 season with a full bill of health.