- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2000

By Ron Wilson standards, it was a tough practice with a lot of skating, a lot of drills dealing with basics and repetition being the key word of the day.

Afterward, the Washington Capitals coach admitted he was trying to send a message. Tonight, against Colorado at MCI Center, he'll know if enough people got it.

Twice yesterday Wilson interrupted a longer-than-usual practice to berate the players for not doing what they were told or not doing it with enough intensity. He ended the session with a loud, lengthy and at times profane lecture.

The Caps are winless (0-3-2) five games into the season, they have lost to a 3-year-old team and couldn't beat a 1-year-old club, their power play ranks 20th at a pitiful 12.5 percent, the penalty-killers rank even lower giving up goals an average of 20.7 percent of the time. And they have scored eight goals this season, an average of 1.6 a game.

"We've probably squandered a couple opportunities," said goalie Olie Kolzig in a huge understatement, "[against] teams we should have beaten. The only way to make up for that is to beat teams we're not supposed to beat. We put ourselves in this position, it's still early but there's no way we want to fall so far behind that we have to do what we did last year."

Kolzig can hardly be faulted; he was rehabbing from knee surgery for the first three games and has given up only five goals in his two starts. He was the key last season to a second-half comeback that resulted in the Caps posting the best record in the NHL after Jan. 1, a rally necessary after a 2-6-2 start.

"It just irritates me that some guys aren't prepared to practice and it carries over into games," Wilson said. He didn't name names but added, "It's only a few individuals. I can accept losing games when your effort is there and I can't complain about the efforts of most of the guys on this team but a few guys haven't performed up to their capabilities and at times it shows in their practice habits as well. How can you improve if you don't practice hard?"

By coincidence, the Caps sent one of their top prospects, defenseman Jakub Cutta, back to junior hockey yesterday and recalled defenseman Dmitri Mironov from Houston of the International League. Cutta, 18, was getting little playing time as the situation became more critical.

"We were very, very impressed with Jake, he was the surprise of camp," said general manager George McPhee. "He has all the ingredients to be an outstanding player at this level big, mobile, skilled and, most importantly, he has tremendous character."

McPhee said it was not the situation or numbers that sent Cutta back to Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

"He's just too young," McPhee said. "This has everything to do with him [getting to be] another year older and another year stronger."

"He was disappointed but I think he understands," Wilson said. "There's only so much you can do in terms of developing a guy when he doesn't get much ice time. He needs to play and play with guys his own age. He's going to be a great player, I have no doubt."

Mironov was farmed out after a less than impressive training camp when he was beaten out for a job not only by the six regulars but by two rookies and a career depth player.

"We got 102 points with him as a regular last season," said McPhee, in explaining Mironov's second chance. "Now we need to settle our defense down a little bit and see if this helps." Mironov was 2-0-2 in three games with Houston.

If Washington needs incentive to rise to the occasion, it has it tonight when Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy goes for his 448th career victory, which would better the all-time NHL standard he now shares with the late Terry Sawchuk by one. Roy is 10-10-5 lifetime against Washington.

"I don't want to be part of history," Kolzig said of perhaps becoming a footnote in the record books. "It's great for him but I don't want to be the guy he beats for the record. We have our own problems now and I'm not going to worry about Patrick Roy's record. We've got to get something going on our own."

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