Capitals

Braves' McCann aiming to be ready for opening day

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Braves' McCann aiming to be ready for opening day

ATLANTA (AP) Brian McCann would like to be behind the plate on opening day and beat the projections which have him missing the start of the season.

Even so, the Braves catcher realizes he must be cautious in his return from major surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

McCann said Wednesday ``things are ramping up'' midway through his six-month rehabilitation schedule. He began throwing last week and started running two weeks ago.

After making six straight All-Star teams, McCann struggled last season as he tried to play through the injury. He hit only .230, easily a career low and almost 50 points below his career average.

McCann is expected to miss at least the first two weeks of the season. He said his goal is to convince team doctors in spring training otherwise.

He knows it won't be easy.

``I'm going to have to persuade a lot of people,'' McCann said. ``I'm going to have to show them I'm ready to go and my shoulder is healed. I plan on doing that. I don't know if that's going to happen, but that's my mindset. I want to be ready as soon as possible. I keep getting better each day.''

Braves general manager Frank Wren said doctors who will be wary of clearing the catcher for jarring hits which could cause a setback to the shoulder.

``With the surgery he had, he'll be able to hit, he'll be able to throw, he'll be 100 percent in those areas in spring training,'' Wren said. ``It's just the last risk factor is diving and sliding. That's the area in the shoulder repair our doctors want to make sure is healed. The only way you can do that is with time. You can't rehab it to make it heal faster. That's going to be the last thing before they turn him loose.''

If doctors hold firm to six months from the surgery for McCann's recovery, he would be cleared on April 15. If so, he would miss two weeks - a small price if it helps to raise the odds McCann can return to his All-Star form.

``I think his mindset is that he's going to be ready,'' Wren said. ``Our doctors would rather be safe than sorry and will probably pull the reins back some. But if everything goes well in spring training, I don't think it will be more than a couple weeks before he is ready to rejoin us. I know that's probably two weeks too long for him, but we don't want to put him in a situation where he has any major setbacks.''

McCann, who will be 29 when the season opens, is a career .279 hitter. His string of six straight All-Star appearances began in 2006, his first full season. He has hit at least 20 homers six times and has three seasons with more than 90 RBIs.

The Braves lost backup catcher David Ross, who signed with Boston. McCann's new backup is Gerald Laird, who played with Detroit last season.

Last season's low point for McCann came when he was left out of the starting lineup for the Braves' wild-card loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. He finished the season with respectable power numbers - 20 homers and 67 RBIs - but he hit only .219 with seven homers and 21 RBIs after the All-Star break.

``He was swinging almost one-armed,'' said Braves second baseman Dan Uggla. ``It's tough. But he's tough and such a competitor that he was going to play through the pain.

``I knew it was bothering him. You could tell after watching him hit and play for the last seven years he wasn't doing the things I was used to seeing him doing. I knew something wasn't right.''

McCann said he ``tried everything and it just didn't work for me.''

``I could swing a bat,'' McCann said. ``I just couldn't swing it and be effective like I wanted to. I still felt I could get a big hit for the team and I was still valuable, so I kept going.

``I feel like sometimes as an athlete you take a couple steps back to go a couple steps forward so I'm looking to coming back better than ever.''

McCann said his shoulder already feels better than last season.

``I'm limited right now in what I can do in the gym but I feel amazing,'' he said. ``I feel great.

``My range of motion is better now than it was last season, which kind of shows me it's been there for a while now, I just didn't notice it. It just got worse and worse.''

Wren, McCann and five other players, including Uggla and Jason Heyward, spent Wednesday morning at City of Refuge, an Atlanta mission located only a few miles from Turner Field. The players helped serve a meal and visited a daycare for children of clients working at the facility.

The visit was part of the team's series of offseason public appearances through the Southeast.

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'He's a heart-and-soul guy:' Capitals begin to process Oshie injury after Game 4 loss

'He's a heart-and-soul guy:' Capitals begin to process Oshie injury after Game 4 loss

RALEIGH — T.J. Oshie shuffled out of the Capitals locker room, hunched over, half dressed, his face a mask of anguish and pain, his right arm pinned against his body. 

He made it to the X-ray room at PNC Arena on his own, two medical staffers at his side, moaning as he entered to learn his fate. Moments later, his teammates came off the ice at that same spot, 2-1 losers to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of a Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series. 

Players clomped past in various states of frustration and distress. Nicklas Backstrom smashed his stick against a wall and, when it only half broke, finished it off with one last theatrical whack. 

It was a perfect summation of Washington’s visit to Raleigh, where it arrived with a 2-0 series lead and left tied 2-2 with a critical Game 5 back home at Capital One Arena on Saturday. 

Oshie will not be with them. He will be out “for quite some time,” said Capitals coach Todd Reirden. Carolina forward Warren Foegele nudged Oshie from behind as both skated near full speed and he crashed hard into the boards in Washington’s offensive zone. 

Oshie yelled out in pain and lay on the ice for several minutes. He was helped off the ice and Foegele received a two-minute penalty for boarding. That did not sit well with Oshie’s teammates, who failed to score on the power play. They thought the play deserved more – a major penalty, for sure, and supplemental discipline by the NHL Department of Player Safety. They didn’t get the five minutes. They might get a suspension when the league looks at the play.   

“It was a defenseless player that was quite a distance from the boards,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said. “It’s an extremely dangerous play and (Oshie) will not be with our team for a while.”

Added captain Alex Ovechkin: "Did you see that? What did you think? I was on the ice, I watched the puck, so I didn't see what happened there, but if you think it's not a dirty play, you have to watch it again."

The frustration was understandable. Oshie had 25 goals in 69 games this season. He missed 11 with a concussion in November before returning. On Thursday, he’d moved up to the top line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and he’s been a staple on the second line much of the season. He is as skilled a player as there is on the Capitals and has a goal and an assist in the series. 

“It’s always tough. He plays the game so hard,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “He’s a heart-and-soul guy. I have no idea what it is or whatever. But the thing with [Oshie] is no matter what he’s going to find a way to have a positive impact on our team - whether in or out. It doesn’t matter. He’s a leader and he’s a guy that guys want to fight for.”

Carolina didn’t agree with the Capitals, of course. Foegele called it “an unfortunate play” where he was just trying to lift Oshie’s stick and he lost an edge and careened into the boards. It doesn’t matter now. With the series now even, Washington will have to build on a much better game than it played Monday night in a 5-0 loss, but without one of its best players. On Friday they can begin figuring that out. On the plane ride home Thursday night they were still trying to process what happened to Oshie. 

“We have all those meetings. GMs make meetings with referees and watch the video and it's two minutes?” Ovechkin said. “We're players and we have to go out there and play, but those guys have to make a decision. They can't be afraid. If the guy hurt, it's a dirty play, it has to be not two minutes. It has to be different call."

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'He barely hit him': Rod Brind'Amour finds a way to downplay T.J. Oshie injury

'He barely hit him': Rod Brind'Amour finds a way to downplay T.J. Oshie injury

The Capitals were incensed by Warren Foegele’s shove to the back of T.J. Oshie in Game 4 on Thursday that sent Oshie dangerously into the boards and knocked him out of the game. Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, however, does not know what all the fuss is about.

“You see a lot of hits that are way, way worse than that,” Brind’Amour told the media after the game.

Oshie entered into the offensive zone with the puck and Foegele came in on the backcheck. Oshie had a good position on the puck, blocking Foegele out with his back. Foegele responded with a cross-check to the back of Oshie that knocked him over face-first awkwardly into the boards. Oshie appeared to strike the boards with his right shoulder and was doubled over in obvious pain as he slowly made his way off the ice.

Ovechkin was so angry that he followed Foegele and continued yelling at him after he went into the penalty box.

But Brind’Amour did not see it as a dirty play.

“I think [Oshie] just went in awkward,” Brind’Amour said. “I don't know the extent of the injury or whatever. Barely hit him I thought, really. He gave him a little shove, but it certainly wasn't what we've been seeing out here.”

In fact, Brind’Amour did not think a penalty was going to be called at all until Oshie stayed on the ice.

“There wasn't a penalty being called and then obviously he crashed into the boards hard and that's when the arm went up because he stayed down,” Brind’Amour said. “You don't like to see that, but I think more than anything he just was not ready for the hit.”

For those of you keeping track at home, Brind’Amour took issue with two consenting players fighting one another, but a cross-check to the back leaves a guy doubled over in pain and, well, he just was not ready for the hit.

Right.

Of course, you can file this away under, “What is he supposed to say?” It’s not as if Brind’Amour would come out and bury his own player for an illegal hit. He is going to defend his guy. Having said that, there were probably better ways to handle the injury of an opposing player rather than diminishing it quite as much as Brind’Amour seemed to.

“We've got way more injuries than they do,” Brind’Amour said. “I don't worry about their team.”

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