- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 1999

Will this be round 2 in the famed dustup that started back on Sept. 25 in Columbus, Ohio? If it is, will Lorne Molleken do his Peter McNeeley impersonation again or will a hockey game break out?
Chicago and Washington meet tonight for the first time since the postgame confrontation/brawl after an exhibition game. The Caps won that game 3-1, but one Washington player sustained a concussion and hasn't played since and many other players were battered and bruised by Chicago's physical play.
The incident in Columbus started when the Blackhawks used a lineup top-heavy with enforcers while the Caps used several youngsters still getting a look. The Caps won the game but none of the fights.
After the game Washington general manager George McPhee went to the Chicago dressing area asking for an explanation for what he described as unwarranted conduct. According to accounts, McPhee pushed Molleken, who was then the Chicago coach, when he didn't get a satisfactory response. Molleken pushed back, McPhee punched Molleken and a brawl erupted McPhee against the world.
Molleken ended up with a black eye. McPhee had his glasses, wrist watch and right thumb broken and a sleeve was ripped off his suit. He was fined $20,000 by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and suspended for 30 days without pay. Wilson was fined $5,000 for verbally sticking up for his general manager and Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz, 70, was fined $3,000 for inviting the Caps to a dark Chicago room to settle things. Wirtz later had a censure motion against McPhee and the Caps introduced at a board of governors meeting. It died for lack of a second.
On the hockey front, the Caps have the chance tonight to play at the healthiest they have been in more than four years. Only one player, left wing Trevor Halverson, the individual hurt in the Blackhawks game, is on injured reserve.
Every individual on the current Caps roster took part in practice yesterday and may play tonight. The list included right wing Peter Bondra (knee surgery), left wing Chris Simon (neck strain) and center Jan Bulis (groin). Coach Ron Wilson will have to make two healthy scratches for the game, a luxury he has not had in weeks.
"Everybody's healthy, everybody's ready to go," Wilson said. He included Bondra in that assessment, and the right wing, who has missed eight games, agreed.
"I feel great," the All-Star said. "I definitely have more confidence going into the game than I had last week. So I do believe a few days does make a difference, not just in my mind but I got to believe knock on wood that my knee is stronger than it was a week ago. I'm excited and I want to play."
Yesterday's practice was unusually short considering the team hadn't been on the ice since Wednesday night in Vancouver. Wilson concentrated on drilling the club on routes and methods to safely exit their zone. He hopes that will help prevent turnovers and the easy goals that occur as a result.
Washington has lost three games in a row, but the streak has a slight twist for the Caps. They averaged three goals a game in their skid, better than their normal production, but they have been allowing 5.67 goals-against, much more than they usually allow. The team appeared to lose sight of many defensive responsibilities, thinking it could play and win at the run-and-gun game the swifter Western teams play. They were proved wrong.
"You got it going well, then you try to do too much and it blows up in your face and that happened to us the last two games," Wilson said. "I told them you have to be ready to play defensively. We're playing a team that has started to score a lot of goals, and we have to play much better defensively. That's our No. 1 responsibility, taking care of our end."


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