- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2000

If the Washington Capitals are going to make a substantial move in the standings, they are never going to get an opportunity like the one before them now.

After playing 10 of their first 15 games on the road, the Caps get to stay home for eight of their next 10 and try to move back toward at least the middle of the Eastern Conference standings.

"With most of the games at home for the rest of the month we have a chance to gain some momentum where we feel the most comfortable," said coach Ron Wilson. "And then once you've got some things shored up, going on the road is a little bit easier. When you've been behind the 8-ball you feel a lot more pressure to get things done when you're on the road."

Pressure? The Caps have experienced slow starts before but this is getting ridiculous. Fifteen games into the season and the team hasn't won back-to-back games. In fact, it hasn't done that since March.

Washington faces the New York Rangers tonight and Atlanta, Phoenix and Montreal next week before a game in Philadelphia.

"I'd like to play well and if we play well the wins will take care of themselves," Wilson said. "If we play the way we have the last few games at home, the wins will take care of themselves but we have to perform. When we do, everything falls into place."

Not exactly, and that has been part of the problem. Washington has performed very well against the better class of competition in the league this season but not always been rewarded for its effort with a win. And there have been times when that same effort was not evident when the club played lesser opponents.

The team spent Tuesday burning out some legs, topping off the conditioning process, is how Wilson put it. Yesterday a fair part of practice was spent in front of a chalk board where the coach illustrated what he had been trying to get through to his players.

"It was a teaching day," Wilson said. "We're inconsistent on how to defend against 2-on-1s at times and how to attack on 2-on-1s. I wanted to practice first for our goaltenders, then our defense and then for our forwards so when we have some of those opportunities in games, we improve our chances of scoring. In theory you should score every time you have a 2-on-1 but I don't know what our percentages are. I'm sure they're minimal but we've got to maximize the minimal."

He also used yesterday as a teaching day to minimize the chances of more bumps and bruises after seven games in an 11-day span produced a lot of sore bodies. Defensemen Calle Johansson and Dmitri Mironov are both out with back problems and some others are hobbled.

"I think he's doubtful," Wilson said of Mironov, who has played well since a wakeup call trip to Houston in the International Hockey League. "We missed him in Tampa [a 5-2 loss]. We're happy with his play, he's a plus [3] defenseman, he moves the puck very well. When we're scoring goals you find Mironov out there, he may not be directly involved but he's doing something right offensively out there to help us score."

Wilson will also use Jan Bulis on the first line from the start, something he has experimented with for the past few games. Bulis is a natural center but has played wing before and provides a great deal of speed to any line he is on.

"You play on the fourth line and you're not going to get too many offensive opportunities," Wilson said. "He's been playing pretty well defensively and I'd like to get some speed on [the first] line, somebody who can push the puck up the ice and push that line to get a little faster. I see that being a need. Hopefully, he can also start to click, put away some of those chances and start creating some."

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