- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

The Washington Capitals depart on a two-game road trip today. Whether a couple of players will play on that trip remains a question for the NHL to decide.

The league will hold hearings via teleconference to review the actions of defenseman Brendan Witt and right wing Joe Sacco in Saturday's game against Atlanta.

It is not known when Colin Campbell, the NHL's executive vice president and director of hockey operations, will announce his findings, but it should give the Caps enough time to find extra manpower for games tomorrow night in Ottawa and Friday night in Chicago.

Campbell's actions indicate the Caps have one factor in their favor. Campbell tends to hold teleconferences when his findings involve a suspension of a game or two and fines. If the penalty is going to be more severe, he usually calls the accused players to the league offices in New York.

Sacco drew a match penalty-attempting to injure after he retaliated against Atlanta rookie Darcy Hordichuk at 16:51 of the third period. The rookie ducked and missed most of the blow Sacco attempted to deliver, but the attempt was enough for the penalty. Earlier in the game, Hordichuk went after Sergei Gonchar with his stick high and caught the defenseman on the right side of the face and head. No penalty was called.

With just 37 seconds left in the game, Witt stood in the neutral zone and punched ex-Cap Andrew Brunette in the head. Apparently the blow was an act of retaliation. Brunette collapsed on the ice and lay there for several minutes before he was led to the Thrashers' dressing room. No penalty was called because none of the four officials saw the punch.

The Thrashers said Brunette sustained a concussion and will miss at least a game.

The Caps are carrying seven defensemen and have a spare forward but may want to add to their roster if Sacco and Witt are suspended for more than a game.

An indication of Campbell's mood was evident yesterday when he suspended Donald Audette, Atlanta's leading scorer, for four games for a match penalty-attempt to injure in a game against Montreal on Jan. 12. However, that was Audette's second such penalty in two weeks. The previous infraction came against Gonchar on Jan. 1.

Two minor leaguers, left wing Matt Pettinger and center Glen Metropolit, were reassigned to Portland, Maine, yesterday to make room for two Caps being brought back off injured reserve center Jeff Halpern (groin) and right wing Dmitri Khristich (hamstring).

"They're all set. We're taking them off IR," coach Ron Wilson said. "They looked fine out there, and they'll play on the road trip."

Note A team spokesman said the NHL Board of Governors unanimously approved Michael Jordan's interest in Lincoln Holdings LLC, the firm that owns the Caps.

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