- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 29, 2007

Chris Bourque showed up at Kettler Capitals Iceplex yesterday and found out he was going to be assigned to Hershey.

Dave Steckel recognizes that day might be coming for him, but he’s making it pretty difficult for Washington Capitals management to let him go.

“I come to the rink and if they don’t tell me to go home, awesome, I can prepare for another day,” said Steckel, a 25-year old forward from Westbend, Wis.. “I go back to the hotel and talk to as many people as I can and try and not think about it, but obviously it comes up all the time.”

Steckel has spent the majority of the past two seasons with Hershey of the American Hockey League with a few brief appearances in Washington mixed in. Two seasons ago he teamed with Boyd Gordon to provide the Bears with a pivotal shutdown line en route to a Calder Cup championship.

Last season Steckel had 30 goals and 61 points, and entered this preseason camp as one of several forwards fighting for a spot on the Caps third and fourth lines. The team’s regular season roster must be set by 3 p.m. on Tuesday, and at this point Steckel is one of six players (along with Matt Bradley, Ben Clymer, Jakub Klepis, Brooks Laich and Brian Sutherby) for either three or four spots.

“He’s played well and he deserves to be down into the group to see who stays with us on October 1,” Caps coach Glen Hanlon said. “For him I guess you keep looking at these dates or you see somebody go down and he’s survived another one. He’s still on the island.”

If Steckel is to make this team, his prowess in the faceoff circle likely will be one of the reasons. When he, a left-handed shooter, and Gordon, a righty, played together with the Bears, they would switch off in the circle depending on which side of the ice the faceoff was on.

Last season Steckel won 62 percent of his faceoffs with Hershey. So far this preseason, he’s been successful 60.6 percent of the time (40 of 66) in four games. Last night against Philadelphia, Hanlon put Steckel on the ice to take draws with his team on the power play, and then he would race to the bench in favor of another forward. He also tallied a pair of goals in the game.

“We keep track of faceoffs and on the power play it is real important to get control right off the bat,” Hanlon said. “Once we started putting Gordon out there on the right side and “Stecks” on the left, we started getting control of some pucks.”

Steckel credits his ability in the circle to some help he received while playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“Doug Weight and Bill Guerin came in and skated with us because they were friends with our coach Jeff Jackson,” Steckel said. “[Weight] took the centers aside and taught us some niches that really helped and just to be strong on your stick and I kind of picked a few things.”

The Los Angeles Kings made Steckel a first-round pick in 2001, but instead of accepting an entry-level contract with the Kings after four seasons at Ohio State, he signed a one-way AHL deal with Los Angeles’ affiliate Manchester.

His coach with the Monarchs was Bruce Boudreau, who joined the Caps organization that offseason as Hershey’s head man. Steckel followed, signing with the Caps a little more than a month later.

“We were very fortunate because Bruce had him in Manchester, so he knew the kid,” Hanlon said. “If a first-round player doesn’t sign a contract, other organizations say, ‘Why didn’t they sign him? What is going on there?’ ”

Note Alex Ovechkin had two goals and two assists to help the Caps erase a three-goal deficit in a 7-5 win last night against the Flyers. Ovechkin’s goal with 2:49 left in the third period knotted the score at five and Tomas Fleischmann’s tally 61 seconds later proved to be the game winner.

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