Capitals C Nylander to undergo season-ending rotator cuff surgery

WASHINGTON – Michael Nylander will undergo surgery to repair a torn left rotator cuff Wednesday and will be sidelined for three to six months, robbing the Washington Capitals of their second-leading scorer for the rest of the season.

The surgery will be performed at The Cleveland Clinic, Capitals general manager George McPhee said.

“I just give him full marks for having the courage to play the last three weeks until he couldn’t play anymore,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said before the Capitals hosted Ottawa on Tuesday. “It’s best to get (surgery) done now. We just have to band together.”

Nylander, a centre who signed a four-year, US$19.5-million contract with Washington as a free agent in July, had 11 goals and team-high 26 assists in 40 games. His 37 points were second only to Alex Ovechkin, who has 33 goals and 21 assists.

Boudreau said Nylander has been coping with a sore shoulder since early December. The injury occurred during a faceoff in a Dec. 1 game at Florida, McPhee said, and Nylander missed the next four games.

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Nylander, 35, played 13 games in his 13th NHL season before deciding yesterday to have surgery.

“It’s tough when you can’t lift your arm over your head or lift your arm sideways,” said Boudreau, adding that the lack of range of motion contributed to Nylander’s team-worst minus-19 rating.

Nylander has 200 goals and 446 in 848 career games with Hartford, Calgary, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Boston, the New York Rangers and Washington.

McPhee said the Capitals would not call up a player from their Hershey affiliate in the American Hockey League to take Nylander’s roster spot. Instead, they will lean more heavily on center Boyd Gordon and winger Viktor Kozlov, who can also play in the middle.

“We’ll go with what we have,” McPhee said.