- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

The Washington Capitals trimmed their roster to the league-mandated 23 players yesterday and came out of training camp the healthiest and possibly the deepest they've been in years.
The Caps assigned Trent Whitfield, the fourth-line center last season, and defenseman Frantisek Kucera to Portland of the American Hockey League. Kucera will probably end up playing for a team in the Czech Republic.
Feisty left wing Rene Corbet was released. Corbet was in camp on a tryout contract and may stay in the system if details can be worked out.
Twenty of the 23 players are veterans from last season. The newcomers are right wing Jaromir Jagr, center Brian Sutherby and right wing Stephen Peat the latter two are rookies who will stay with the team as long as their play and development warrants it.
Nobody is hurt. Defenseman Brendan Witt's left knee, slightly sprained a week ago in Philadelphia, has responded well enough that he took part in practice yesterday.
Nobody is holding out. Center Jeff Halpern, the last to reach contract agreement, has been in camp for a week and has nearly made up for lost time.
Most important, the forward lines appear to be meshing as Washington tries to bind what is normally its Achilles' heel, lack of offense. And to that end, Jagr is far from the usual Band-Aid.
"He's making adjustments to how we play," said coach Ron Wilson. "The adjustments he has to make aren't very difficult, he just has to learn some of the habits of our guys and we obviously have to learn what some of his habits are. You can only learn so much of that in training camp when you're mixing your lines and the games don't really count. Now the first month of the season will still be that for a lot of people, a feeling out process to see what happens."
For now, Jagr is the right wing on Andrei Nikolishin's line with Dainius Zubrus on the left. The other offensive line has Adam Oates centering left wing Peter Bondra and Trevor Linden. The checking unit is unchanged Halpern centers Steve Konowalchuk and Ulf Dahlen.
The fourth line is in flux and will probably be adjusted to face particular opponents, but it will be centered by Sutherby and will likely include versatile Joe Sacco on a wing. The other wing could be Chris Simon, Dmitri Khristich or Peat.
The defense is unchanged Witt and Calle Johansson, Sergei Gonchar and Joe Reekie, Sylvain Cote and Rob Zettler will be paired, with Ken Klee as the spare. Goaltending is also unchanged Olie Kolzig is the starter with Craig Billington backing him up.
The Oates line has clicked from the outset and Jagr's appears to be coming around as well. Nikolishin is a savvy center who learns linemates' habits quickly, sets them up and can take the return pass just as easily. If anybody should benefit from being with the five-time NHL scoring champion it is Zubrus, who has enormous potential that he has never been able to fully tap into. Jagr could be the key.
"Now we have somebody who is able to create more scoring chances and finish off those chances," Wilson said. "It would be foolish to alter what we do we've changed one player, not 19."

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