- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2002

Coach Bruce Cassidy put the Washington Capitals through a tough 45-minute practice yesterday one that short only because no more ice time was available. Afterward, two players were ordered to the equivalent of a woodshed and punished.
Cassidy singled out young defensemen J.F. Fortin and Steve Eminger for not working hard enough and ordered them into the exercise area for more work as practice ended. Neither was especially happy about it.
"They were being outworked by a guy I jokingly call the old man [Calle Johansson] because he's almost my age [37] and by a guy who's been playing forward while he's trying to fight his way into the lineup [Alex Henry]," Cassidy said. "That's unacceptable."
Meanwhile, general manager George McPhee watched the personnel go through its practice motions from the stands at Piney Orchard. There was the feeling that some of the faces soon might change, a notion McPhee did nothing to discourage. He acknowledged that he was looking to make a trade, not one just to shake things up but one that would help the team long term.
Who might be involved? There are no untouchables, he indicated, perhaps forgetting goalie Olie Kolzig, the one player on the team who has worked hard to maintain the Caps' major league status.
"But I'm not going to watch this much longer," McPhee said, referring to Washington's latest embarrassment, a 6-2 shellacking administered with ridiculous ease Friday night by Ottawa. It was the fourth time this season a team has come into MCI Center and soundly thrashed the Caps.
There is no doubt about where the team needs help most on defense, directly in front of Kolzig, with the addition of a large, angry man who despises people wearing opposing colors. Washington hasn't had anybody like that since Mark Tinordi retired, and he hasn't played for four seasons.
Asked what was most disappointing, McPhee replied, "The overall commitment to defense. You win in this league by keeping the puck out of your net. We got a guy in Kolzig who's been playing great, but nobody has been helping him out. That's when you wonder if you've got some of the right people out there."
McPhee would not be specific, but there has been constant criticism about a lack of leadership from some veterans who are supposed to lead by example players like Johansson, Jaromir Jagr, Robert Lang, Peter Bondra and Brendan Witt. Jagr and Kolzig pushed the team by themselves for the first month of the season, but Jagr has only one goal in his last six games.
The Caps were treated like rag dolls Friday, tossed around with ease as the Senators faced little opposition in making their way to the Washington crease. The visitors used the same system that Cassidy, a member of the Ottawa organization until being hired by the Caps, has been trying to install here.
"We're certainly disappointed with our lack of commitment, the lack of willingness to do the little things that make a difference in a game," McPhee said. "We have some ability, as much or more than a lot of teams, but they're not playing hard enough right now."
The Caps have won only two of their last nine games while slipping from a playoff position to 12th in the Eastern Conference. The power play has gone from No.1 to No.13; the penalty killing, down to 78.9 percent, has all but vanished.
"At some point, [youd think] enough's enough," Cassidy said. "When do you draw the line? When do you get mad? I didn't see anybody get mad last night. We get ripped at home, and that's happened a few times, and we just kind of take it. I was waiting for that fuse to go off at some point, waiting for embarrassment or pride or something to kick in. With our guys, the attitude is 'poor me' or 'we'll get 'em next time.'"
There is a good chance forward Dainius Zubrus (bruised hand) will play in Atlanta this afternoon. Ivan Ciernik has gone from a call-up to left wing on the first line. Henry's work habits probably have earned him a spot in the lineup today; Eminger will probably watch from the press box.

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