- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Goalie Olie Kolzig, the biggest and steadiest cog in the Washington Capitals' wheel, will be lost to the team for at least the next three weeks after undergoing what has been described as "minor" arthroscopic surgery on his right knee yesterday.
Team physician Ben Shaffer performed the surgery to remove a bone spur and scar tissue, the team said. The announcement said the Vezina Trophy winner would be lost for "about three weeks," meaning he would miss the first five games of the regular season. That schedule would have him return to the lineup in time for the Oct. 17 home game against Colorado.
There had been indications Kolzig was hurt but nothing to indicate he would require surgery. It appeared a shot got through his protective devices last Thursday night in Philadelphia and struck him on the knee. For several seconds he appeared to be in pain but continued.
Monday he pulled himself out of goal after about 20 minutes of practice and sat on the bench, where he slammed a few objects around in what appeared to be a fit of frustration. Shortly thereafter he left for the dressing room but later indicated nothing serious was wrong.
General manager George McPhee said the pain in his goaltender's knee was caused by "wear and tear over the years," not by anything that happened in the Flyers game. The Caps will go with veteran backup Craig Billington as the No. 1 with rookie Sebastian Charpentier backing up.
Kolzig has been one of the most durable players at any position in Caps history. Other than missing three games with mononucleosis at the start of the 1996-97 season, he has played more than 270 games over the past six seasons without an injury serious enough to cause him to miss a start. His last hockey-related injury was in October 1993, when he missed 14 games with a dislocated kneecap while playing in Portland, Maine.
Without doubt, Kolzig is the single most important player on the Washington roster. He was instrumental last season in rallying a dispirited team that got off to a horrible start but posted the best second half record in the league and won the Southeast Division title, losing the best record in the Eastern Conference on the last day of the season.
He beat some formidable competition (Roman Turek, Ed Belfour and Curtis Joseph, to name a few) to win the Vezina last season. He had a record of 41-20-11 with a goals-against of 2.24; he has won 100 games since he became a starter three years ago.
Kolzig and his teammates came out of the gates last season with all the finesse of a square puck. They went 2-6-2 in October before coach Ron Wilson came up with a different scheme, one designed to drastically cut down on the number of odd-man rushes the goalies faced nightly. Kolzig was 2-5-2 during October; he went 39-15-9 the rest of the way.
Billington signed a new three-year contract during the summer and often refers to himself as a first-of-a-kind an NHL backup by choice and design.
"This is the situation you prepare yourself for," he said yesterday. "One of the circumstances that can come up is an injury to the starter. In this case Olie will be getting the best of care and part of my professional responsibility is to support that."
Billington's record last season was a deceiving 3-6-1; his goals-against was 2.75 while his save-percentage was a very good .910 in 13 appearances. He was originally obtained for the express purpose of backing up Kolzig.
"I have 15 years of experience to fall back on," he said. "I've been in so many situations starter, backup, a guy who split games. I've done so many different things, I have that experience to call on. This is obviously very exciting, it can be nerve-wracking but to me it's the ultimate exciting challenge."

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