Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post is reporting that Chris Clark will be in the lineup tonight against the Buffalo Sabres and will be coming off long term injured reserve. Clark had a forearm injury and also was still battling the groin injury that sidelined him for most of last year. The Caps team captain is a great locker room guy but he has struggled so far this year so hopefully the time off allowed him to fully heal. I spoke with a former NHL GM last weekend and he said Clark’s game is skating so if he can’t do that he isn’t going to help the team. Clark did have 30 goals two seasons ago but this year he has yet to score in 20 games and at $2.633M against the salary cap he is an expensive guy to have around, especially if he isn’t skating well and not scoring. As El-Bashir mentioned in his insider blog, Clark coming off injury means that in order to keep rookie defensemen Karl Alzner up another big money guy will probably have to go on long term injured reserve or else Washington will exceed the salary cap. El-Bashir expects that player to be Sergei Fedorov but it is possible the Caps could still be under because defensemen Jeff Schultz is still out of the lineup on long term injury at $763K. Alzner clearly deserves to be up with the big club the rest of the season. If you ask me he is a top three defensemen on this team (Mike Green, Tom Poti, and Alzner are my top three).
Simeon Varlamov will back up Jose Theodore in goal tonight. Also out for Washington is forward Tomas Fleischmann, who has the flu. Forward Donald Brashear (leg injury) is back in after missing Tuesday’s win in New York.
I had a chance to talk with a former NHL GM as well as a current Western Conference scout this past weekend while I was up in Canada and below are some of the discussions that took place on the NHL:
– On the Sean Avery situation: Dallas owner Tom Hicks (co-owner of WNST’s Darren Rudham’s favorite football team, the Liverpool Reds) is a guy who doesn’t mind spending money if it is well spent but waste his money and he isn’t a happy camper. As a result, co-GM’s Brett Hull and Les Jackson could be in trouble job-wise because of the Avery situation. Many people are blaming Hull for bringing on Avery but Jackson had to sign off on this move too so he should get just as much of the blame. Some Dallas players, including Mike Modano and Marty Turco, did not want Avery signed in the first place and they voiced that opinion to hockey management but Avery was signed anyways. I still don’t know why Dallas wanted Avery when they already had Brendan Morrow and Steve Ott on the roster.
– Bryan Murray appears to be on very shaky ground as GM in Ottawa.
– The Calgary Flames have been better this year getting support from their second, third, and fourth lines. They are no longer the one line team they were last year. However, the chemistry still isn’t perfect in Calgary and defensemen Dion Phaneuf still isn’t the most well liked guy on the team. Phaneuf, who apparently marches to his own beat, has regressed a bit this year after a very good season last year. Current Devils Coach Brett Sutter seemed to push the right buttons with Phaneuf when he coached him in Red Deer in the Western Hockey League but Mike Keenan hasn’t been as lucky.
– The former GM is a big Mike Green fan but he says there are 16 guys vying for the 8 roster spots on Team Canada for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 and he says the only two guarantees for that team are Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, if both decide to play. He does think Green will make the team but agreed with me that Minnesota defensemen Brett Burns is no lock despite the constant plugging for a Team Canada roster spot that he regulary gets on Hockey Night in Canada radio (Jeff Marek is a big Burns supporter).
– A discussion comparing Phaneuf and Nashville defensemen Shea Weber took place and the scout pointed out that last year Phaneuf was way ahead of Weber despite the tables being turned this season. The former GM then said that defensemen really don’t start fully playing to their potential until they reach 24 or 25 years old. He said he has had that discussion with several former NHL players and hockey executives and they pretty much all agreed on that timetable for the development of most blueliners. The former GM pointed to Jay Bouwmeester as a perfect example. Bouwmeester turned 25 in September and is having one of his best years for the Florida Panthers in a season in which he is an unrestricted free agent after it is completed.