- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2001

Centers have traded places on the Washington Capitals' first two lines but it is not an indication that coach Ron Wilson is unhappy with anybody or that the moves are permanent. It is simply Wilson trying to get the most out of people on any given night.
Adam Oates moved to a spot between Dainius Zubrus and Jaromir Jagr, and Andrei Nikolishin took Oates' place centering Peter Bondra and Trevor Linden in practice yesterday, the same way they ended up in Saturday night's 6-1 season-opening thrashing of the New Jersey Devils.
The Caps are in action this afternoon against the Bruins in Boston. It is the first of five straight Washington will play away from MCI Center, a month that will see the team play nine of its next 10 on the road. The only break is Oct. 19 against Montreal.
The shift in personnel on the two lines is simply part of the tinkering that Wilson does game-to-game. There are times he will spot somebody having a particularly bad night and all but drop him out of the rotation, but the flow goes the other way as well. Wilson believes it prevents you from trying to force square pegs into round holes.
Nonetheless, the gifted Oates has had success with virtually every forward he has worked with and Wilson may want to see more of him with Jagr to see how they work together. Jagr is also amazingly gifted and versatile and can see holes around goalies that few others have been able to discover.
And Nikolishin and Bondra worked well together as a unit last season, a trend that should continue.
"Whatever combinations work at whatever given time, that's what we'll go with," Wilson said. "We've never had lines set in stone. The one line that should be a constant would be the Halpern line [Steve Konowalchuk, Jeff Halpern and Ulf Dahlen] and then, depending on who's playing well, we move other people around. You find chemistry, whether it's for one shift, a game or five games."
A lot of people had chemistry Saturday against the Devils the goals came from six different individuals and a total of 10 of the 18 Caps skaters had at least one point. But that came after the poor first period when it took a great effort by goalie Olie Kolzig to keep his team in the game.
"The second period is an example of how well we can play when we aggressive defensively," Wilson said. "What we've got to focus on is what we did so well in the second period as opposed to the way we played in the first. We were a little bit passive, especially defensively."
Notes Defenseman Sylvain Cote missed practice with a sore foot after blocking a shot Saturday night but Wilson said he would play today. Right wing Dmitri Khristich took Joe Sacco's place on the fourth line for practice but might revert to previous form by game time. Boston is Sacco's hometown and he wants to play. Boston has beaten Anaheim 4-2 and Atlanta 4-3 in overtime, winning the latter on Billy Guerin's seeing-eye shot. Byron Dafoe, in the best health he has been in years, has gone all the way in goal. Former Cap Jason Allison, tied for fourth in the league last season with 95 points, is continuing his holdout and it's looking more and more like he will eventually be traded. With everything clicking at the moment for the Caps, it sounds like Los Angeles might be the spot the center ends up in. Mike Keenan replaced Pat Burns as coach last season in Boston and now Robbie Ftorek has replaced Keenan. It appears the B's have settled on a trend for coaches and it has nothing to do with the kind and gentle approach.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide