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Injury News and a Bold Playoff Prediction

Right wing Richard Zednik, out since Dec. 2 with a sports hernia, has received clearance from his doctor and the team's medical staff, so you can count on the veteran getting back into the lineup on this road trip.

That's the good news.

Meantime, defenseman Brian Pothier, the team's ice time leader, is not making the trip, which has led to speculation that his undisclosed injury is in fact a concussion. He's already missed three games and I haven't seen him since he got plastered into the Plexiglass on Jan. 18.

How's that to start off your week? Wait, it gets worse.

Two other defensemen, Bryan Muir and John Erskine, are still 2-4 weeks away -- and that's an optimistic time frame. Muir said he was able to get onto a stationary bike for the first time recently but that the broken bone in his foot still isn't completely healed. He's skated lightly a few times, but admitted he's "hoping" to miss only two more weeks.

I didn't run into Erskine, but I'm told his injury -- also a broken foot -- is more severe, and thus healing more slowly. So he's going to be out a bit longer, perhaps three more weeks, maybe a month.

No matter who you look at it, that's bad news.

The Caps are five points out of the playoffs with 32 games left to play. The magic number is 94 points; they've got 49. Do the math and then wipe the tears off your calculator. Even the most optimistic fan should also realize that 7th place through 14th are separated by only six points, meaning they'll also need plenty of cooperation from the Penguins, Lightning, Rangers, Maple Leafs, Islanders, Bruins and Panthers.

As such, I'm downgrading the Capitals Insider's playoff outlook from "possible" to "doubtful", as in extremely.

Maybe they will prove me wrong. I just don't see it happening.

And before you ask, I also don't see them making a blockbuster deal at the trade deadline to acquire any help. Any move they make -- and let's be honest here, it's very possible they won't make any -- will be geared toward future improvement.

One deal logic suggests might happen would be trading Zednik to a contender because he's in the last year of a contract that pays him $1.976 million. But I also don't think he's definitely out of here. He likes it in Washington and the coaching staff likes him here, too.

Much more on Zed in tomorrow's paper.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  January 29, 2007; 9:49 AM ET
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