- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2000

Olie Kolzig stayed on the ice long after most of the rest of the Washington Capitals left and about two dozens fans waited patiently for his exit. He went straight to them, signed each and every item to be autographed and finally made it inside the darkened dressing rooms at Piney Orchard Ice Arena.
"What is this, we don't pay the electric bills anymore?" he asked in mock frustration. The frustrations of management were real.
If all goes well in a scrimmage today, Kolzig and defenseman Sergei Gonchar, the latter a holdout until the day before the season started, will play tomorrow night against the Thrashers in Atlanta. The Caps are 0-1-1 without them but there are no guarantees the record wouldn't have been the same with the pair in the lineup.
Kolzig had minor arthroscopic surgery to his right knee Sept. 26 to remove a bone spur and has made a somewhat remarkable comeback. It was originally estimated that he would miss "at least three weeks," and would play Oct. 17 against Colorado at the earliest.
"Olie went into the operation at a great fitness level, really on top fitness-wise, and that had a lot to do with how quickly he has recovered," said conditioning coach Frank Costello. "The day after surgery he was here, never missed a beat. Really amazing."
Coach Ron Wilson indicated he wanted to use both tomorrow but wasn't about to push either one of them into rushing things, risking additional lost time.
"We'll see how he feels [today]," Wilson said after his goalie went through his first full workout since Sept. 24. "We'll scrimmage a bit for their benefit then I'll have some decisions to make once we get to Atlanta. But so far it's looked pretty good for Olie and pretty good for Gonch as well."
That he has missed two games is truly noteworthy for Kolzig. He last was unavailable to play for the first three games of the 1996-97 season when he came down with mononucleosis. A dislocated kneecap in October 1993 is the only other injury to sideline him as a pro.
"Sitting there watching ain't fun," he said yesterday. "I definitely want to get back but I don't want to get in there just for the sake of getting in there. I've got to be ready, I've got to give the guys a chance to win. I can't be at the top of my game until I start playing but I've got to be relatively close. Who knows, maybe Wednesday."
Kolzig was trying to be realistic about his return, not to dwell on false hope.
"I'm shooting for Wednesday," he said. "[But] today was the first day there it was all-go, no restrictions. It responded well. The only thing I'm worried about is my timing and my on-ice conditioning. Realistically I'm looking at Wednesday but it's a coaching decision. My goal is to play two out of three this weekend."
After Atlanta, Washington is in Nashville Friday night and Dallas on Saturday.
Kolzig made it through most of training camp but Gonchar missed all of it. He skated for about two weeks with some of the veterans before camp started and skated while holding out but has had no contact.
"He hasn't been involved in any games so he's going to be behind there," Wilson said of the defenseman who has scored 39 goals in the last two seasons. "You practice at one speed and play at another in terms if intensity."
Gonchar might be used in spot situations, especially on the power play where goalies fear facing his hard, rising slapshot, while he gets into game-shape.
Notes The anticipated announcement of long-term contract extensions for Wilson and general manager George McPhee are expected to be released today. Both joined the team during the summer of 1997… . Dmitri Mironov, the veteran defenseman who failed to make the team coming out of training camp, is being assigned to Houston in the International League. He was signed by the Caps as a free agent in 1998 with the hopes he could come close to doing for Washington what he did for Anaheim two seasons earlier, score a dozen goals and have 46 points. So far in two seasons he has produced five goals and 38 points while earning $5.5 million. He is scheduled to make $3 million this season and the same amount next season. If the Caps can't trade him, there will be a buyout offer in the future.

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