Caps' Halpern has torn ACL

The Washington Capitals will have to make due without valuable checking center Jeff Halpern for the rest of the season.

Halpern needs season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, the Washington Post reported on Thursday. The 25-year-old Halpern injured his knee on Jan. 16 against the Canadiens after going awkwardly into the boards.

The Caps had been holding out hope that the injury would turn out to be less serious, and that Halpern would be back in a few weeks. Now, Halpern will miss 4-6 months, but should be ready for training camp next season.

"It appears at this point to be a pretty significant tear," general manager George McPhee told the Post. "We have to do, at all times, what is best for the athlete and it's Jeff's frame of mind to have it done now. He'll never have to worry about it again."

The banged-up Capitals are also without Halpern's linemate Steve Konowalchuk, who is practicing with the team after having major shoulder surgery in October. Konowalchuk is expected back in March, according to the Post.

The Caps have relied on the line of Halpern, Konowalchuk and Ulf Dahlen heavily over the last few years.

"What could be more significant than losing not only an important individual, but a tandem and combination that are so effective, that are really the engine for your team?" McPhee told the newspaper. "That line plays against the best lines in the league and shuts them down and gets you a goal, which is usually enough to win a game. If those guys are all in our lineup, are we six, eight, 10, 12 points better?"

Halpern's injury leaves the Capitals with just two natural centers on the roster -- Adam Oates and Andrei Nikolishin. Halpern had 19 points and 29 penalty minutes in 48 games this season before getting hurt.