- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Olie Kolzig's plan to come back tonight against the Thrashers in Atlanta has been put on hold, leaving it up to veteran Craig Billington to secure the Washington Capitals' first win of the season.

The Caps open a quick road swing tonight and play three games in four nights, visiting Nashville Friday and Dallas Saturday. It is the only game this season between the Caps and Stars.

Kolzig, who had minor arthroscopic surgery Sept. 26 on his right knee, went through his second full day of practice yesterday and, by his own admission, came up short. There was no problem physically, he said; the surgery did its job, but his timing was way off.

"I need probably a couple more days," said Kolzig. "I thought it would be easy for me to just hop back in there but at my position and my size [6-foot-3, 235], it's a little tougher to get moving. [This] is an important game, a division game and we need to win it. I just feel that I'm not ready to give the guys the best chance to win. I would think by Friday I'd be able to go."

Coach Ron Wilson agreed with his goalie.

"Physically he's 100 percent but not in his timing and that happens from not facing real shots for almost two weeks," Wilson said.

Wilson added that the short period of time makes a difference "when it happens during training camp when you're trying to gather your timing. It's a process… . His timing will come back rapidly in the next couple days."

Goaltending coach Dave Prior said the decision to wait a few more days was Kolzig's.

"He's not totally satisfied with his game," Prior said. "With goaltending everything is so spontaneous. You don't know what's going to happen in front of you and you have to provide the correct reaction. And sometimes your reactions are just a little more delayed than you want them to be. Timing is critical to a goalie's success … and he has to play again to see where he's at, to get a true reading."

The Caps arrived in Atlanta last Jan. 6 with a modest four-game unbeaten streak and left with their tails firmly tucked between their legs, 3-1 losers to a rag-tag collection of players. Some call it the most important game the Caps played last season the game that turned them into winners.

Kolzig cut loose in the dressing room after the humbling defeat, his anger and loud verbal criticism peeling more than a few layers of skin from some individuals. The team lost only one of its next 16 games and posted the best record in the NHL in the second half.

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar will make his season debut tonight. He held out until training camp was about over and then signed a four-year, $13.3 million contract. He is not yet in top physical condition so if he can't get the job done then he can be easily removed from the lineup.

Notes The club officially said that general manager George McPhee and Wilson had signed contract extensions. Each is believed to be for four years. "This deal is meant to reward George for his accomplishments and to secure his services long-term," said team president Dick Patrick. The first thing McPhee did as GM was hire Wilson, his friend from the days both were working in Vancouver… . Sebastien Charpentier, who backed up Billington during the first week of the season, was assigned to Portland, Maine, yesterday, leaving the Pirates with three goalies, one too many… . The 3-3 tie Saturday against Carolina was Billington's 300th NHL game.

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