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Cavs C Varejao needs surgery, may miss 2 months

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Cavs C Varejao needs surgery, may miss 2 months

CLEVELAND (AP) Anderson Varejao's big body has betrayed him again.

Cleveland's hustling center needs surgery to repair a muscle that split near his right knee, which could cause him to miss two more months - a major setback for a young Cavaliers team struggling through another miserable season.

The NBA's leading rebounder, Varejao was injured Dec. 18 against Toronto. The injury was initially diagnosed as only a bruised right knee, but as his symptoms persisted, more tests were performed and revealed a ``longitudinal split'' between Varejao's quadriceps and knee.

Varejao will have surgery on Thursday at The Cleveland Clinic, and the team said he will be sidelined a minimum of six to eight weeks. The team said Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo., provided a second opinion on the injury.

``We're losing one of our best guys on and off the floor. He's the heart and soul of our basketball team,'' Cavs coach Byron Scott said. ``This is a big-time blow. I'm just trying to keep him in the best of spirits because it's been three straight years of getting some type of injury that's just derailed him. This is the biggest because he has been playing so well.''

Varejao has missed over 100 games in the past three seasons with significant injuries. He sat out 51 games in 2011 with a torn ligament in his foot and was sidelined for 41 games last season after breaking his wrist.

``Three years ... it's unbelievable,'' a frustrated Varejao said before Wednesday night's game against Atlanta. ``It's like, `Why again? Why me?' It's something I don't have control of. All I can do is keep working. Right now focus on my rehab to get better as soon as possible.''

One of the NBA's scrappiest players, Varejao was playing at an All-Star level when he banged his knee last month and went down with what appeared to be a routine injury.

However, it's much worse and the Cavs are again without an important piece as they try to rebuild.

``I tried to come back,'' Varejao said. ``I was working every day. We did some more tests and they saw some other stuff that I don't think it's bad, but I need surgery just to fix it.''

Varejao, who is confident he will return this season, doesn't think the injury got worse during his attempted comeback.

``We don't know how long it's going to take to heal,'' he said. ``Rehab and still having pain that's not letting me play. It was getting better but I had a second opinion, talked to the doctors here.''

The Cavs have gone 3-7 this season without Varejao, who was to miss his 11th straight game Wednesday. Cleveland has had more than its share of injuries in the past few seasons. Point guard Kyrie Irving, the reigning rookie of the year, missed 11 games earlier this season with a broken finger and is one of three Cavs who have had to wear protective masks for broken facial bones.

Scott has only had his full complement of players for seven games this season. The Cavs are 8-28 heading into Wednesday night's game against Atlanta.

``It's real tough,'' Scott said. ``You're disappointed, frustrated and (ticked) off. You have so many different emotions going through your head, but what can you do? Everybody in this league has to deal with injuries and we've had to deal with them for three straight years. You just got to keep playing hard with the guys that you have and try to get them better.''

The Cavs were expected to explore trade possibilities for the 6-foot-11 Varejao to acquire more future draft picks. But now that he's hurt, the team is stuck and has to hope youngsters like Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller improve with more playing time.

``When you have a big blow like this, you're going to have guys get a golden opportunity,'' Scott said. ``When you have an injury like this, there is always a silver lining.''

Varejao was averaging 14.4 rebounds and was making a strong push to appear in his first All-Star Game. He is under contract with the Cavs for two more seasons, with the club holding an option for 2014-15.

Scott had not spoken to Varejao, who he knows is hurting.

``I don't even know if I'll talk to him,'' Scott said. ``I'll probably go up to him and give him a hug and tell him, ``It's going to be OK.''

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AP Freelance Writer Steve Herrick contributed to this report.

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.