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Washington Capitals

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Ron Wilson


C - Adam Oates, Andrei Nikolishin, Matt Herr, Dale Hunter. LW - Joe Juneau, Brian Bellows, Richard Zednik, Steve Konowalchuk, Patrice Lefebvre, Benoit Gratton. RW - Peter Bondra, Craig Berube, Kelly Miller, Mike Eagles, James Black. D - Calle Johansson, Mark Tinordi, Sergei Gonchar, Brendan Witt, Joe Reekie, Dmitri Mironov, Ken Klee. G - Olaf Kolzig, Rick Tabaracci.


Michal Pivonka, c (shoulder, day-to-day); Yogi Svejkovsky, lw (sprained ankle, 1-2 weeks); Jan Bulis, c (ankle, 1-2 weeks); Adam Oates, c (groin strain, day-to-day); Tom Chorske, lw (abdomen/groin, 10 weeks); Chris Simon, lw (shoulder surgery, out for season); Richard Zednik, lw (groin, day-to-day).


Patrik Augusta, lw, signed to a one-year contract; Matt Herr, c, sent to Portland (AHL); Augusta sent to Portland; Benoit Gratton, lw, recalled from Portland; Patrice Lefebvre, lw, signed to a one-year contract.


12/09  at Los Angeles    L 2-1
12/11  at Anaheim        L 1-0
12/12  at San Jose       L 2-1
12/17  at Chicago        W 3-1
12/19  at Pittsburgh     W 3-0


Southeast Division  GP   W   L   T   PTS   GF   GA  
  Carolina          33  15  13   5    35   85   78   
  Florida           28  11  11   6    28   73   76 
  Washington        29   9  17   3    21   60   78  
  Tampa Bay         32   8  21   3    19   68  114 


by Jason Sheehan, Washington Correspondent

Hunter's Ironman Streak Ends

Nothing has been more consistent for the Washington Capitals than Dale Hunter putting his No. 32 jersey on his shoulders before the start of every game.

He was the only Capital to play in each game for the last three years. But age has caught up to the 38-year-old captain, so coach Ron Wilson decided to give Hunter a rest Dec. 12 at San Jose, ending the ironman streak at 306 games.

"It was the third game in four nights," Wilson told The Washington Post. "It's not a reflection on Dale Hunter. We had to get a little more youth in the lineup, a little more jump, and we were looking for a chance to get him a well-deserved rest. Without an injury or something, you don't like to pull a guy like that out, but Hunts, even by his own admission, has struggled a little bit recently."

Hunter struggling? He is in the midst of his worst season in his 19-year career. In 27 games, Hunter has no goals, while collecting only one assist. Since he isn't scoring, Hunter is being relied on for his defensive ability. But even that aspect of his game is lacking, which is evident with a plus/minus of -7. The rugged captain has lost a few steps with age, and unfortunately, it's beginning to show.

Hunter's most successful trait is his leadership. Even when he was a healthy scratch in San Jose, Wilson still found a way to use him during the game. Hunter spent the night behind the bench as an assistant coach for the first time in his career, losing his debut, 2-1. He returned to the coaching ranks two games later in Pittsburgh, where he was again a healthy scratch. The team lost, 3-0, dropping Hunter's coaching record to 0-2-0.

Caps Look for Offense in IHL

With the troops depleted (seven injured forwards), the Capitals' offense has plummeted to last in the National Hockey League. Washington has only lit the lamp 60 times. Right wing Peter Bondra leads the team with 12 goals, but from there, scoring is hard to find. Center/left wing Joe Juneau and center Adam Oates, who has missed the last nine games, each have six goals. From there, the scoring list reads like a game of polo - few and far between.

Since goals from Washington have not been plentiful - the Capitals have been shut out in four of their last 10 games - general manager George McPhee tapped into a talent pool that other teams have ignored throughout the years: The International Hockey League. The players? Long Beach's Patrik Augusta and Las Vegas' Patrice Lefebvre. Both players had no experience at the NHL level.

Augusta played two games against Anaheim and San Jose before being assigned to Washington's farm club in Portland, Maine (AHL). The Capitals, however, expect more from Lefebvre, who was scouted by George McPhee last week when the team held a mini-camp in Las Vegas. Lefebvre was signed before the Pittsburgh game.

Lefebvre, 31, stands at five-foot-five and is the shortest player in the NHL. Even Calgary's Theoren Fleury towers above Lefebvre.

But don't let Lefebvre's size fool you. He has the tools needed to succeed in the NHL. He proved that last season by winning the IHL's MVP award as a member of the Las Vegas Thunder. Now, he's ecstatic to finally get a chance to prove his wares with the Capitals.

"I can't tell you what this means to me because I'm in a complete state of shock and I can barely talk," Lefebvre told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I am amazed, I'm thrilled, I'm shocked, I'm baffled. I'm so happy, I could cry. I've dreamed of playing in the NHL my whole life. I used to think about it so much, and to think I'm finally going to get a chance, at my age and after all these years, it's overwhelming."

No Pressure for Kolzig

Goaltender Olie Kolzig realizes he cannot win games all by himself. His play will plummet if he thinks he needs a shutout to give his team a chance to win every game. These thoughts crept into his head last month after signing a new four-year, $12 million contract. As a result of this self-given pressure, he struggled.

Fortunately, the Capitals playoff hero has worked his way out of a slump and is back to playing good hockey. He has kept each game close, making him one of the few Capitals who cannot be blamed for the team's pitiful season.

"To play at that kind of level like I did in the playoffs is tough to maintain over 82 games," Kolzig said in Las Vegas. "I just want to play - right now - a consistent game. The last few weeks, I've been doing that.

"My job is to just give the guys a chance to win. You're not gonna get a shutout every game. As long as you keep it close and you make the big save for the guys to give them a boost, that's all you can do. The guys in front have to score. You win as a team and lose as a team, so I've learned in the last couple of weeks not to put too much pressure on myself - just to play hockey."

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