- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Washington Capitals coach Ron Wilson made it clear yesterday that, while the situation is not hopeless for those seeking spots on the team's NHL roster, any successful applicant will have to put on a spectacular show to beat out a veteran.

Wilson's comment came after the first scrimmage of camp. During that scrimmage several of the older veterans skated with plenty of jump and were easily in command, while some of the youngsters sputtered. Perhaps they were trying too hard to make a positive impression on the members of management who made personnel decisions.

It was thought, going into training camp, that one of the few open spots might be at center where Jan Bulis is recuperating from shoulder surgery. It was believed that Bulis would not be available until early November. (He is also holding out but that situation can be rectified in minutes with one phone call.)

"Everybody keeps saying he won't be ready until November but Bulis is skating with a team in the Czech Republic right now," Wilson said. "I think if he were here he'd be skating with us right now."

That is a likely scenario, but it assumes Bulis would pass any physical examination he must go through once he returns to the United States, including a check of his surgically repaired shoulder.

"I don't know what the one available spot is," Wilson said when asked about openings. "They have to knock somebody out of position. They have to clearly outplay veterans [and] I think our veterans understand that. [Newcomers] just have to continue to improve and work hard and be ready if called upon. Exhibition games will be very important to those guys."

At the moment, Adam Oates, Jeff Halpern and Andrei Nikolishin are skating at center with the two experienced groups. Veteran Terry Yake will fill another spot. Trent Whitfield, who was called up late last season, occupies another slot while rookie Kris Beech is the sixth pivot. Two other players with experience in the middle are skating on wings.

"We're the same team essentially as we were last year," Wilson said. "We'll throw some young guys in and see what they can do in exhibition games but I don't see this as being a big battle for five positions. That's not the case at all. We're a veteran team that did well last year and we've got something to build on."

All of that leaves a guy like Glen Metropolit, who played 30 games with the Caps last season while shuttling between Portland, Maine, struggling to earn a spot.

"All I can do is work hard, be good defensively and show my offensive skills," Metropolit said. "I think my defensive game was lacking a bit last year, that's why I was up and down. I'm treating this like it was my first camp, excited when every shift comes. But there's no for-sure things here for me. All you can do is try to make people notice."

The coach issued a warning about injuries to the three players who are holding out. Injuries are a common problem for players who miss camp and return to the ice. So far Bulis, left wing Chris Simon and defenseman Sergei Gonchar have missed four days of on-ice practice.

"There's a history in our league of people who miss camp being injured in the first month [of their return]," he said. "I talked to Gonchar about the importance of practicing with us even if you don't have a contract so you're ready. I don't care where he goes… . it's not the same as skating training camp with an NHL team. The fortunate part is we have a lot of depth. You can't really replace these guys over a season but you certainly can in the short term. We've got a lot of guys capable of getting the job done. It's no different than an injury, somebody fills in."

Gonchar said he would be attending a camp in the Tampa, Fla., area set up so holdout players could stay in shape. Bulis is reported to be training in Europe but details on Simon's whereabouts are unknown.

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