- The Washington Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

Decisions have been made on the 13 forwards who will open the season for the Washington Capitals, and the team knows who will start in goal. But with only a week to go before the opener, there are roster spots still to be determined.
A team source said yesterday it was possible the Capitals could start the campaign with eight defensemen, one more than planned, because the competition for jobs has been so even.
And the job of backing up starting goalie Olie Kolzig hasn't been decided, with veteran Craig Billington and rookie Sebastien Charpentier continuing to fight it out. Billington, 36, is available in today's waiver draft.
The Caps play host to Carolina tonight, and coach Bruce Cassidy said after practice yesterday that tonight's roster "will probably be as close to what we think our opening lineup will be." He then cautioned, "But a lot could change in a week."
Defense is where the changes might come. Cassidy will play Steve Eminger-Calle Johansson, Brendan Witt-Ken Klee and Sylvain Cote-Sergei Gonchar tonight, "but that's not to say those six will necessarily start the year, because J.F. Fortin's not in the mix."
That leaves three others who have not been ruled out: Todd Rohloff and Nolan Yonkman, who played some with the Caps last season, and Jason Doig.
The problem, team sources said, is that none of the pretenders has made a big jump to separate himself from the veterans who have jobs locked up.
One of the possible openings all but disappeared Wednesday night when Johansson, coming off major shoulder surgery, played for the first time since last November and said he felt fine. Before that 3-1 victory against Pittsburgh, Johansson said he didn't want to play back-to-back games, but now he can't wait to get back on the ice.
Eminger was picked 10th overall in last June's draft, a draft that was said to be all but talentless after the top three players. But Eminger has opened eyes from the day he arrived with solid, composed play, well above what is expected from an 18-year-old.
Offensively, the Caps returned their last pure rookie forward yesterday, giving them 15 in camp. It is believed that twins Chris and Peter Ferraro will end up with the Portland (Maine) Pirates in the American Hockey League. If that is the case, then the Caps are at their targeted 13. Included in that group is Mike Farrell, who is still a rookie but has played eight games.
But all of this could be changed by a player turning in a performance that sparkles tonight or tomorrow afternoon in Philadelphia or by an injury. Cassidy conceded he has no idea who his spare defenseman will be; he might end up with two of them.
Then there are the labor problems. Washington still has two holdouts, Dainius Zubrus and Andrei Nikolishin, and presumably spots are waiting for them if they show up. With a 23-man roster limit, that means others move out.
Notes Rookie right wing Boyd Gordon, drafted 17th overall last June, was returned to his Red Deer, Alberta, junior team in the Western Hockey League, leaving Eminger as the only 2002 pick remaining in camp. Center Brian Sutherby missed practice with a bruised shoulder yesterday; he may play tonight.
Center Jeff Halpern (groin sprain) skated gingerly yesterday but did not take part in any drills. Cassidy said Halpern might be ready for the season opener if he doesn't have any more setbacks.
The waiver draft is at noon today; the Caps select 12th and may grab a player if it isn't too costly. Holdouts: No progress on Zubrus, no discussion with Nikolishin's agent. A proposal was presented to Eminger's representatives but no action has been taken.


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