- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

The numbers pretty much say it all. When the Washington Capitals don't allow a power-play goal, their record is 9-3-2. But there is always a reverse side to figures, and this is it: The Caps are 5-11-3 when the opposition scores with the extra man, a major reason Washington has struggled this season.

The Caps are on the road for two games, in Florida tonight and in Pittsburgh on Friday. And Washington has run into most of its problems when it plays away from MCI Center. The team is 4-10-3 when it travels and has been outscored by 20 goals.

A large part of Washington's inability to win on the road has to do with killing penalties, which it hasn't been doing well. The club is ranked 24th overall but is next-to-last on the road, where the opposition is scoring at a clip of 25.3 percent. The Caps have scored 14 power-play goals on the road but have given up 22, a fatal ratio.

The inability to kill penalties on the road is baffling because the same personnel give up power-play goals only 11.5 percent of the time at home.

"I don't really have an answer," coach Ron Wilson said yesterday. "We've been playing from behind a lot on the road, and we've been banged up a lot, more than at home. I don't know other teams don't play very well at MCI Center. Since we've been there, we probably have one of the best home records in the league."

"We don't have the same sense of urgency on the road," defenseman Sylvain Cote said.

Goalie Olie Kolzig agreed.

"It seems with our fans [at home] we work harder to kill penalties, trying to get fans into the game, but on the road I don't know if we have the same amount of urgency," Kolzig said.

"Sometimes we just get caught where someone isn't covering," he said. "The goalie obviously is the most important penalty killer, and there have been times when I haven't gotten the job done. It's a combination of things really, but I think we've been better of late. We've been a lot more disruptive."

There was no dispute over one factor the team has been taking too many penalties on the road, a lot of them of the "lazy" variety, such as holding, hooking, tripping.

"We've mentioned that a number of times recently, and on this road trip that's something we're going to address, being disciplined, especially against Florida, which is playing really aggressive right now," Wilson said. "Maybe we have to tweak our style a little on the road, be a little more conservative. We haven't drawn as many penalties on the road as we have at home."

Notes Kolzig (ankle) and center Andrei Nikolishin (bruised leg) both took part in the full practice and are expected to play against the Panthers tonight, but right wing Dainius Zubrus (groin) is not making the trip. Center-right wing Glen Metropolit, recalled from Portland, Maine, will accompany the team to Florida, meaning he will remain on the NHL roster through Christmas, a significant salary boost. Backup goalie Corey Hirsch was returned to Portland yesterday.

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