Capitals

Cavs' Varejao done for season with blood clot

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Cavs' Varejao done for season with blood clot

CLEVELAND (AP) Anderson Varejao's season rapidly spiraled from a probable All-Star appearance to over.

The Cavaliers' hustling center, who led the NBA in rebounding before he went down last month with what appeared to be nothing more than a bruised knee, remained hospitalized Monday with a blood clot in his lower right lung, a health scare that will force him to miss the rest of this season.

Varejao, who underwent surgery on a torn leg muscle on Jan. 10, has been at The Cleveland Clinic since last Thursday. The Cavs said he will likely remain in the hospital for several more days as he receives treatment. Varejao is expected to make a full recovery, but he will remain on blood thinning medications for at least three months, the team said Monday.

The loss of the 6-foot-11 Varejao is a crushing blow to the young Cavs, who are just 10-32.

``Losing him already was bad enough for us,'' star point guard Kyrie Irving said. ``The news got worse today. We wish him the best. We're all going to be there for him morale-wise, just try to be there for him as best as we can as teammates. That's all we can do right now.''

Despite Varejao being admitted to the hospital four days ago, the Cavs did not reveal he was still there until shortly before Monday's workout at their training facility.

Varejao was having an All-Star-caliber season before he injured his leg on Dec. 18 against Toronto. Team doctors initially diagnosed the injury as a bruise and expected Varejao to make a quick recovery. However, tests revealed an uncommon split in his quadriceps muscle which required an operation. Varejao was expected to be out eight weeks before he developed the blood clot following the surgery.

General manager Chris Grant said the team is ``fairly confident'' the clot was not a reaction from surgery.

This is the third straight season Varejao has missed extended time with injuries. The Brazilian sat out 41 games last season with a broken wrist, and he was sidelined for 51 games in 2011 after tearing a tendon in his ankle while running after practice.

``We're just feeling bad for Andy,'' Cavs coach Byron Scott said following practice. ``I think the world of Andy, especially with the way he plays. My heart just goes out to him. He's had some bad luck in the last three years. I'm sure it's devastating to him. I feel real bad for him.''

Varejao was averaging 14.4 rebounds and 14.1 points in 25 games before he got hurt. There wasn't a center in the Eastern Conference playing better than the fun-loving 30-year-old, who has developed into much more than a competent reserve - when he's healthy.

If he had been able to keep playing, there's little doubt Varejao, acquired by Cleveland in 2004 in a trade with Orlando, would have been named an All-Star reserve this week.

Grant pointed out that Varejao's injuries have been unrelated.

``They've all really been freak things,'' he said. ``He's frustrated. We're frustrated for him and with him. We would love to have him out there, particularly the type of year he was having. He's really come into his own as a leader on the court, so it's difficult. But at the same time we believe in him as a guy, we know what he can do. He's played in a lot of big games for us, into the Finals. We'll continue to support him.''

Cleveland, which has one of the league's youngest rosters, just completed a 1-4 road trip. The Cavs will host Boston on Tuesday and play 10 of their next 12 games at home.

Varejao's injury has allowed Scott to give extra playing time to second-year forward Tristan Thompson and rookie Tyler Zeller. The Cavs, though, have been plagued by wild inconsistency, especially down the stretch in games they've let slip away.

``We've made strides in the right direction, but we just have to be more consistent game-to-game,'' said Irving, who is averaging 23.1 points, 5.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. ``I say it all the time, we've proven we can play with the best in the league, we just have to put two halves together. We're still figuring that out.''

They'll have to do it without Varejao, their never-stopping big man who has managed to stay positive despite his latest medical setback.

``His spirits are up,'' said Grant. ``He's frustrated. He wants to play; he wants to be with his teammates on the court. But he's such a good guy. Every time you see him he's still got that big smile.''

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Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

The Capitals managed to earn a point on Friday in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, but the game felt like a missed opportunity for Washington. After giving up four goals in the first period, seven power plays including two 5-on-3s, and two power play goals, the Caps knew they had no one to blame but themselves for the loss.

“We were still not quite there maybe emotionally,” Lars Eller said.

At least not for the first period. The Caps allowed four goals in the opening 20 minutes to dig themselves into a 4-1 hole. Each goal came from the slot as the Caps had no control over the front of their own net.

“Just tough to start that way, to kind of dig ourselves a big hole,” Brett Connolly said. “Obviously, it’s good to come back and get a point but we don’t need to do that to ourselves. It takes a lot of energy to get back in that game.”

Washington battled back to tie the game at 4, but penalties ultimately derailed their momentum, allowing Florida to retake the lead.

After scoring three straight goals, the Caps took three minor penalties in the final three minutes of the second period.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad as he made no attempt to play a loose puck that trickled past the Florida defenseman. He was clearly focused on delivering the hit and nothing else.

Less than a minute later, Eller was caught on the ice a tad early, and Washington was called for too many men.

“I see Backy coming for a change, they had full possession,” Eller said. “I don't see behind my back, I think the guys are telling me he has one skate over so I think it was an unnecessary call, but what am I going to say? It's a tough one.”

With 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with, Jonathan Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal late in the period.

Even after a furious comeback, the Caps could not escape the second with the score tied because of the penalties.

Just 43 seconds after Huberdeau’s goal, Washington went right back to 5-on-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov was tossed from a faceoff by the linesman and argued the call, eventually earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“He said something he shouldn't have said to the referee,” Reirden said of the call.

The Caps' penalty problems were exacerbated by the continued problems of the penalty kill.

Heading into Friday's game, Washington was only killing off 72.2 percent of the power plays they faced. They allowed another two power play goals Friday as they continued to struggle when facing the extra man.

“We have room for improvement for sure,” Reirden said of his penalty kill. “It’s a new system, new with the way we’re killing, its new personnel. We’re learning. We’re missing a key guy in Tom on that as well. It’s not easy, either, when you’re 5-on-3 when they’ve got talented players that can convert in that spot. It’s definitely a work in progress and I didn't expect it to go smoothly to start with. That’s one of the areas that we knew was gonna be new to our team this year and it’s gonna continue to take some work. It’s something that definitely is a work in progress.”

Mistakes put the Caps down 4-1, they put them down 5-4, they cost them a valuable point against a previously winless Panthers team before a four-game road trip through Canada, and they are ultimately why the defending Stanley Cup champions are only 3-2-2 to start the season.

And they know it.

“We’re still trying to find our game,” Connolly said. “Would we have liked to have picked up where we left off? Yes. But it’s not easy. We played a lot of hockey last year and a short summer and you come in here and there’s a lot of distractions, a lot of that kind of stuff. We’ve done some good things and we’ve done some not so good things.

"I think if you look at last season we weren't very good either at the start. We weren't at our best. Just take the positives and know that we can overcome that. It hasn’t been disastrous. We’re still getting points, we’re still above .500 right now with a tough couple back-to-backs to start the year. So not the worst start, but obviously we have another level.”

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Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

The Florida Panthers played over half of Friday’s game with five defensemen after a hit from Alex Ovechkin ultimately knocked Mark Pysyk out of the game.

Early in the second period, Ovechkin attempted to enter the offensive zone with the puck, but it was swept away at the blue line back to Pysyk. Pysyk quickly chipped the puck away and then was on the receiving end of a hit from Ovechkin.

In real time, the hit did not appear to be a big one. It wasn't even the biggest hit Ovechkin delivered in the game, as in the third period he sent Aleksander Barkov flying with a shoulder hit. But Pysyk went down to the ice after the hit and left the game soon after.

After the game, Florida head coach Bob Boughner did not mince words.

“Pysyk got a high hit to the head,” he said.

When asked if he thought the league should review the hit, Boughner said, “I hope they do because if you see the replay, it's high. It's a head shot. And the league's trying to clamp down on that. Whether there's no call, I don't blame the refs. Maybe they missed it. That happens. But those are the kind of plays that need to be reviewed.”

Based on the replay, it is hard to determine if the principal point of contact was the head. Ovechkin does not launch himself, but does appear to take an upward trajectory into Pysyk. Still, it seems like a hard sell to say Ovechkin was targeting the head.

But the hit did send Pysyk out of the game, and in today’s NHL, when head hits are a big topic of conversation and when a player is injured on a play, the NHL has shown it takes those plays more seriously.

Pysyk returned to the game for one more shift after receiving the hit, but left the game after and did not return.

“Right now we're still getting him checked out, but we'll see more in the morning,” Boughner said.

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