Washington Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy said yesterday he expects goaltender Olie Kolzig to be back at work tomorrow, barring any physical setback.
“It looks like he’ll be ready to play Monday [at Colorado],” Cassidy said yesterday, meaning the goalie has recovered sufficiently from his strained quadriceps muscle.
Precisely how Kolzig suffered the injury is somewhat of a mystery. He said he was preparing for the game against Atlanta on Dec.6 at MCI Center when he suddenly felt something digging into his thigh. He thought it was a piece of equipment rubbing him wrong and when he moved it, he said his leg felt weak.
Going into last night’s game in San Jose, Washington had gone 2-2-0 with Kolzig out but probably should have done better with some offensive support. One of the losses was a 3-0 defeat in Anaheim and the other a very winnable 4-3 affair in Buffalo.
This is the second time this season Kolzig has missed time with an injury. He missed five games in late October and early November when he strained his left wrist. The most frightening incident for the goalie this season came Dec.1 in Atlanta, when Dany Heatley’s slap shot caught him full force on the face mask, sending the protective device flying off Kolzig’s head. It didn’t stop until he hit the far boards. Kolzig continued with only a slight delay.
When Kolzig does return, the Caps will be faced with another roster problem. Washington is at the 23-man limit now, and to activate the goalie off injured reserve, a player currently on the roster has to move.
Asked what his plans are, general manager George McPhee said, “I’m not sure yet. We have a couple options; I’ll wait until the last minute and see where we are.”
Option No.1 probably would involve long-time backup Craig Billington, who has been ineffective this season (1-3-1, 4.70 GAA), and at 36 may have reached the end of the road after 15 NHL seasons. With Kolzig on IR, Billington is backing up rookie Sebastien Charpentier.
Asked if he might keep three goalies, usually an unworkable figure, McPhee replied, “I’d have to see how Olie is. If I’m 100 percent sure Olie is OK, no.” In other words, one of the three would have to go.
Billington already has been assigned to the minors, when he was sent to Portland, Maine, coming out of training camp. But that move was only on paper; Billington never reported and was returned to the parent roster within days. But that option is probably no longer available. The veteran has shown that, unlike in other years, he cannot be counted on to jump right into a void and at least give his team a chance to win.
Washington’s 4-3 victory over Phoenix on Friday night came down to a pair of calls by officials that disallowed two Coyotes goals, something that has been happening with fair regularity to the Arizona team this season. A few players are blaming officiating, but veterans and management blame the team for not winning outright.
“It takes guts on the officials’ part to make that call,” Phoenix coach Bob Francis said after the loss in one of the more remarkable quotes a losing coach has uttered perhaps in the history of the NHL. “They probably made the proper call.”
On the play in question, Phoenix had stormed the Washington net with a man advantage trying to get the tying goal in the last minute. With 29 seconds to go, the puck was rapped behind Charpentier and into the net, causing wild celebration on the part of the Coyotes while behind the net referee Stephane Auger was shaking his head and waving his arms wildly in front of him, the signal for no goal.
Auger, in only his second full season as a referee, said one of the Phoenix players had batted the puck with a high stick, there was no goal and there would be a faceoff.
“It was definitely the right call,” Cassidy said. “The shot was batted right into Charpy, and the [official] never hesitated. He didn’t even go upstairs [for a review].”
The most remarkable review under the circumstances was the truthful admission from Francis.