- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Throw a few dozen competitive young men on a hockey rink in different colored jerseys and there’s a good chance tempers will flare. It happened a handful of times in July during the Washington Capitals’ development camp scrimmages.

That’s among guys who spend a week together and get to know each other as friends and teammates. Now, make it a game with a real clock, real rules and real opponents with a history and reputation of rough play, and there’s almost no doubt there will be fisticuffs and more in Thursday’s rookie game between Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers prospects.

“I think there will be. Guys are competing hard,” Caps defenseman Dustin Stevenson said. “You’re trying to leave an impression, and for some players, that’s their job to go out and play an aggressive and intense game, and fights are going to happen.”

Stevenson might not be the first guy to line up for a fight, but the Caps don’t lack players who are willing to do it. Forward Danick Paquette, acquired along with a draft pick in the trade that sent Eric Fehr to the Winnipeg Jets, compared himself to noted enforcers Sean Avery and Matt Cooke a couple months ago and fought multiple times during development camp.

But Paquette won’t be looking for a dance partner Thursday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia — he talked about wanting to score goals.

“I think my job is just to go out there and play hard, and if that happens, it happens,” he said. “But I don’t think I’m there just to fight.”

That kind of talk is predictable if not admirable from a guy who has already shown his edgy style and fighting ability to coaches.

But these rookie games between the Caps and Flyers have featured rough play in the past, and there always seem to be willing combatants. One could be Scott Wietecha, a defenseman in rookie camp on an amateur tryout agreement who is trying to get a real contract.

“I just try to do things that make me hard to play against,” he said. “And if fighting’s one of those things, then when need be, I’ll do it. I can give myself an edge by doing that.”

Like Wietecha and Paquette, Caps wing Garrett Mitchell fought teammates in July. Coach Bruce Boudreau is impressed that the 5-foot-10, 180-pound prospect is willing to take on bigger guys — whether that means teammates or opponents.

“It’s tough to do that in practice, but at the same time, that is my game, that is the way I like to play,” Mitchell said. “I like to play in your face, and if that means drop the mitts, that’s something that I’ll do for sure.”

With Caps prospects enjoying another week of competition that includes bonding, Thursday is a chance to turn the competitive juices and any pent-up frustration loose.

“It’s kind of us against them, different unis,” Wietecha said. “We’re going to stick up for each other, work hard for each other — not only yourself but for the other guys too.

“It’s a little more fun, too, to take it out on them.”