- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2000

Mike Farrell, arguably the best rookie in the Washington Capitals training camp, drove to Portland, Maine, yesterday, assigned to the minor leagues, a victim of numbers.

Terry Yake, the 10-year veteran, was going to meet his new Portland teammates tomorrow night in Providence, R.I., where the team plays an exhibition game. He was reported to be disillusioned and upset because he felt he played well enough to make the team. Yake always seems to be caught by numbers; Portland will be his seventh minor league team.

No one seems sure about Dmitri Mironov's final destination. He didn't make the Caps and was originally assigned to Portland but the Pirates already have nine defensemen. What they don't want is one who makes $3 million and got farmed out at age 34. There are indications Mironov may end up in the International League.

"This is our team," coach Ron Wilson was saying yesterday, adding that the only decision yet to be made "is if and when Chris Simon signs." The holdout left wing and the club are miles apart on a new contract.

Jakub Cutta (pronounced Chewta) is the biggest surprise, one of only a few. Nobody bothered to learn how to pronounced the defenseman's name for the first week because he was an 18-year-old mid-level draftee with no particular pedigree, one of a dozen or so. That quickly changed as his steely composure in tight situations made him stand out.

Glen Metropolit made the club for the second year in a row and hopes his initial stay this time will be longer than last season's one game. Metropolit is a surprise because he didn't really stand out except for his ability to control the puck and move it to the right place on power plays. That was enough, said Wilson, who needs to improve that area of the club's game. The center has to upgrade his defensive work if he hopes to remain.

That Kris Beech made it is not a surprise, even though he did not stand out like he did last September. The 1999 first-round pick is bigger and stronger but it is not known if the 19-year-old is strong enough to take the pounding that comes with the NHL. He has great vision of the ice, is an excellent passer and has slippery moves like Adam Oates.

The league manpower limit dropped to 23 this season and the spares at yesterday's practice said something about who was retained and on a regular line. Craig Berube, the pugilistic left wing, is on the roster should anyone challenge the Caps; Andrei Nikolishin, the center who has been bothered by injuries for the past two seasons, checks like an angry Cossack when healthy; and Sergei Gonchar, right now the seventh defenseman, an unlikely position for him.

Tuesday night, when general manager George McPhee said the defender had ended his third holdout on the eve of the regular season, he said he would check to see if there were penalties he might be able to impose in hope that the willful skipping of training camp "while the rest of the team worked its butt off" could be stopped. If one was to read between the lines, McPhee was saying this could have been done 30 days ago.

Wilson wasn't pleased, either, but his concern centered on statistics that show players who miss camp are more likely to sustain injuries than those who paid in sweat.

"I have just got my fingers crossed," the coach said. "Look at how many guys have gotten hurt when they miss camp. In our sport it's vital to be at training camp. So we're not going to rush Gonchar in there but at the same time he's going to have to work his butt off to get back into our lineup."

That is true for more than a few reasons. The six remaining defensemen have all played well in camp and Joe Reekie, who was hurt for much of the second half last season, is one of the standouts.

"I was actually hopeful Gonchar would be here," Wilson said yesterday, his displeasure showing now that the defenseman was again a salaried employee. "I'm disappointed he isn't. I think he should be here the day he signs [or] be here the next day. He should be ready to go at the drop of a hat. Each day you're not here is another day you fall behind. He had better be here [today]."

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