Caps' Fleischmann just having some fun

November, 19, 2009
How does a player start his season with 11 points in 10 games and barely get noticed around the league?

By playing on a team with Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green, that's how.

Sorry Tomas Fleischmann, but you're getting some national recognition now from

"It's OK, you can keep it quiet," the Capitals forward said on the phone from Washington, laughing all the while.

He can afford to laugh. A few months ago, he was told his career might be over. Doctors discovered a blood clot in his leg after he returned home to his native Czech Republic following last season, a condition likely worsened by the long flight home.

"We are lucky we caught it, I was in danger," said Fleischmann.

And he'll never forget what doctors said would be the worst-case scenario.

"They told me I might not ever play hockey again," said Fleischmann. "But I didn't think about that. I just kept thinking that everything would go well."

So as training camp opened in September, Fleischmann worked out on his own. When the season began, he skated on his own. The 25-year-old stayed positive.

"I just focused on playing again," he said. "When I was cleared, I just couldn't wait to go out there and have fun. That's what I'm doing right now."

He was cleared to return in late October, and after a two-game conditioning stint in the AHL, his NHL career resumed Oct. 29 in Atlanta. He actually went pointless that night. He hasn't since. He's reeled off seven goals and four assists in his past nine games heading into Friday night's home date with the Montreal Canadiens. His contributions were timely on a team battling the injury bug (which team isn't these days?), including absences first from Ovechkin and now Semin (day-to-day, wrist).

That he's been this successful right out of the gates is nothing short of amazing. Any player missing all of camp and preseason and the opening month of the regular season usually takes awhile to get going.

"A little bit surprised, I didn't expect it," said Fleischmann. "But I was so excited to start playing hockey again."

He's played so well that he's likely back on the Olympic radar for the Czech Republic, though he insists that's not a front-burner issue on his mind right now. Still, when asked whether he thought he'd made an impression on Czech head coach Vladimir "Rosie" Ruzicka, Fleischmann seemed to know at least somewhat about what was going on.

"All I know is that his assistant coach has traveled here," said Fleischmann. "I think he saw me play against the Rangers [on Tuesday night]. But I didn't talk to anybody."

Whether or not he has an Olympic coach who believes in him remains to be seen, but he knows he has one in Washington. Bruce Boudreau has long believed in the talent of Fleischmann and has given him an opportunity to succeed. That translated into a career-high 19 goals last season and key minutes come playoff time.

"I played for him in Hershey," said Fleischmann, who had 52 goals in 102 AHL games in 2005-06 and 2006-07. "I just like the way he coaches, it's fun to play for him. Everything seems easy on the ice."

Just like every day now seems like a great one in Fleischmann's life. His experience battling back from the blood clot has taught him to enjoy every single day he's still in the NHL.

"That's exactly what it is," said Fleischmann. "I'm just having fun."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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