- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2001

The Washington Capitals didn't get on the ice until Wednesday and only practiced three times, but you couldn't tell it from the tone of yesterday's intrasquad scrimmage. Even the fights were in midseason form.

Brian Sutherby, Nathan Paetsch and Krys Barch scored, backing up two periods of perfect play from goalie Olie Kolzig, as the White team outplayed and defeated Craig Billington's Black team 3-1 before an overflow crowd of perhaps 1,000 at Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, Md. Chris Ferraro scored for the Black.

The new kid from Pittsburgh, Jaromir Jagr, did not score but was the focal point for those in attendance as the reigning NHL scoring champion made his first game-like appearance with the Caps. His every move was applauded.

"This gives our fans a chance to change their focus for a couple hours," said coach Ron Wilson, taking note of the national tragedy that hangs over every part of American life. Fans had the opportunity to donate money to disaster relief funds, and hundreds did.

"It's good for our players to be involved in a scrimmage like this," Wilson said. "When you think of the scrimmage itself, the intensity was surprisingly high. When you combine some of the young guys, minor league veterans and some of the NHL players, then you're going to have a lot of people out there trying to make an impression. That sort of motivates the veteran guys."

Basically a veteran NHL club by design, the Caps have few jobs that could be described as wide open, but one could be listed as temporarily vacant the position of centering the checking line usually held by Jeff Halpern, who is holding out in a contract dispute. Sutherby, drafted only a year ago, has pushed himself into serious contention for the spot.

"Every time you're out on the ice with these guys, you start to feel more comfortable," Sutherby said, "and you learn so much. With Ulf Dahlen and Steve Konowalchuk as my wings, they helped me every time I got back to the bench, telling me stuff I can do better. They were telling me about the Caps' defensive system, things I learned last year [in camp] but hadn't used in a year and it was sort of unfamiliar. Those guys were guiding me all the way through the scrimmage."

Sutherby, a late first-round draft pick in 2000 who grew up with Mark Messier as his idol, has shown surprising maturity and understanding for a 19-year-old. Even though last September was his first NHL camp, he was one of the last prospects to be returned to his junior team. The way things are going, he may last even longer this time.

"I can't be worried about that," he said when asked about the current opening. "There's lots of guys here, lots of centers, and decisions like that aren't up to me. My job is to go out and work hard, and hopefully something good will happen."

Notes Fans joined in singing "God Bless America" before the scrimmage …

Another full intrasquad scrimmage will be held at 11 a.m. today with some changes in line combinations as the coaching staff tries to find the best chemistry. For instance, Jagr skated with Adam Oates and Dainius Zubrus yesterday; today the right wing will skate with Trevor Linden as his center and Zubrus still on the left. Linden skated as a right wing yesterday. Oates will center Peter Bondra and Matt Pettinger today… .

The two exhibition games that were called off this weekend have been rescheduled. Last night's home game against Philadelphia will be played Tuesday at 7 p.m. at MCI Center. Tonight's scheduled game against Boston in Portland, Maine, will be played Sept. 24, also in Portland… .

The Portland training camp opens Tuesday, so the Pirates' staff will leave after today's drills. Manpower reassignments could start to come this afternoon… .

Right wing Joe Sacco and left wing Chris Simon, both recovering from shoulder surgeries, are skating but are not allowed to take part in full-contact drills yet… .

Rookies Stephen Peat and Mel Angelstad engaged in one fight, Pettinger and veteran Joe Reekie in another. Only feelings were hurt… .

There was no conversation yesterday between the Caps and Halpern's agent, former goalie Mike Liut.

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