- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2001

HURRICANES 5, CAPS 4

In a perfect world, most parts of a hockey team would be interchangeable. That way, there wouldn't be controversies real or imagined over things like a team having too many left wings and too few to play the right side.
Such disputes have little meaning in Europe where, it seems, a majority of the hockey players are left-handed. Washington's Jaromir Jagr and Peter Bondra have had a great deal of success as southpaws playing right wing.
Adam Oates is also proving that the interchangeable parts can move as the situation dictates during a game and be successful. A center for 16 seasons, he has been playing left wing at even strength during preseason and centering on the power play.
Oates set up three goals last night and Peter Bondra scored three, but it was 38-year-old Carolina captain Ron Francis who scored 1:59 into overtime last night, giving the Hurricanes a 5-4 victory over Washington. The Caps finished the preseason at 2-3-0-2; the Hurricanes finished 2-4-0-0.
The ability of players to move and be effective allows a club to be far more versatile and to adapt quicker and more effectively from night to night, varying the lineup to match different opponents.
The Oates experiment has been a success so far, but it is only the most recent for the Caps. Bondra, a right wing for his entire career, was shifted to the left side last season and had 45 goals. Trevor Linden, currently centering Oates and Bondra, has played all three forward positions since joining the Caps.
On the power play, Oates goes back to center, quarterbacking along the left boards and feeding Sergei Gonchar on the left point. Linden mucks, trying to get the puck to Bondra, who moves to right point with the extra man, or Jagr, who moves into Bondra's spot on the right.
What nobody on either side did last night was play much defense at any position. Bondra scored on the Caps' first shot of the game 1:25 after the start off a 2-on-1 with Linden, which was also Washington's only shot of the first 20 minutes. Carolina took advantage of Washington's penalty-killers to tie it, an all-too common occurrence during preseason.
The second period was a turkey shoot. Bondra scored his fifth and sixth of preseason, the team high, while Linden got his second. Carolina responded in kind.
Notes The Caps' roster stands at 27 but must be at 23 by Tuesday. A few of the four remaining cuts are all but automatic (depth goalie Corey Hirsch is probably headed for the minors to await a call, and a home has to be found somewhere for right wing Dmitri Khristich, who has not played well in camp and does not appear to fit into any line combination), but others may be tough.
For instance, no decision has been made on whether the club will keep seven or eight defensemen, a decision that affects the number of forwards. Rookie Stephen Peat fills a void as an enforcer. But he really needs a season in the American Hockey League for experience, especially after missing last season with injuries. No announcement is expected before at least tomorrow… .
There was a definite patriotic feeling in the arena. The P.A. announcer had no trouble getting the crowd to stand and respond to 'United We Stand' messages… . The Caps' annual alumni golf tournament will be tomorrow at Bethesda Country Club. Proceeds benefit the Children's Inn at the National Institute of Health… .
Francis, the Hurricanes' captain, has set up more than a quarter of Jaromir Jagr's goals; the two were teammates in Pittsburgh… . Rookie center Brian Sutherby is the only Cap to appear in all seven exhibition games; there's no decision yet where he will end up… . Defenseman Brendan Witt sat out the game to rehab his left knee, described as a slight sprain.

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