- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Olie Kolzig came back and was spectacular for the Washington Capitals last night. If he only could handle the puck in the offensive zone on the power play.
Washington played one of its best games of late but had to settle for a 2-2 overtime draw against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. The Caps ended their five-game road swing a disappointing 1-3-1.
Kolzig was back after being sidelined since Dec.3 with a strained quadriceps but showed no sign of injury or fatigue last night. He was sharp throughout, especially in the closing seconds of regulation when the struggling Avalanche put on a brief but forceful rush.
Colorado had no problem dealing with the Caps' pathetic power play. Indeed, Washington was rarely able to set up in the Avalanche zone. Colorado played some of its most physical hockey while killing penalties, battering the Caps as they tried to chase their dump-ins. Colorado lined four defenders up along the blue line, and to the Caps it must have looked like the Rocky Mountains.
The Caps went 0-for-5 with the extra man and even had the benefit of a rare power play in overtime. Washington was a man up for 1:23 but couldn't get anything past Patrick Roy, who was in goal for his ninth tie of the season.
Steven Reinprecht got the only goal of the first period on a delayed penalty that gave Colorado a six-on-four advantage.
The remainder of the scoring came in the second period. Steve Konowalchuk poked a puck loose, and Jeff Halpern pushed it across the line to tie the score, then Jaromir Jagr scored his 16th of the season on a deflection after Michael Nylander worked the puck for a long time waiting for Jagr to get loose. But five minutes after Jagr's score Milan Hejduk scored at the end of a crisp passing play with Kolzig unable to get from left to right faster than the puck.
With Kolzig back in action, the Caps had to create an opening on the roster, and veteran backup Craig Billington was placed on waivers. General manager George McPhee said on CSN that the team would "work something out with Craig" if he passed through waivers, meaning the team would buy out the remainder of his contract.
It means the end of Billington's 15-year NHL career if he is not claimed, which appears unlikely since he has passed through waivers once already this season. Kolzig's backup will be Sebastien Charpentier, 25.
Billington spent a good deal of his career as a backup, the first goalie, he maintained, who specifically set out to play a secondary role at that position. He came to the realization that if he wasn't strong enough to be a No. 1 on his own, he should specialize as a reliever. If indeed he is done, he finishes with a record of 110-149-30 with a goals-against average slightly in excess of 3.6.
One of the reasons Billington got to Washington from Colorado was his intense game preparation, something former Cap Dale Hunter noticed immediately when he was traded to the Avalanche late in his career. Hunter recommended Billington when the Caps searched for a backup, and he got the job four years ago.
But he has not been able to get things going this season. He had a record of 1-3-1 with a GAA of 4.70. His one win was a sloppy 7-6 triumph over Atlanta; his best game was a 1-1 tie against Florida. Suddenly, at 37, he was no longer the reliable backup he had been, and the door opened for Charpentier.
In an unrelated move yesterday, the Caps and Ottawa swapped minor league defensemen. Washington acquired Josef Boumedienne, 24, and gave up Dean Melanson, 29. Boumedienne has better offensive skills than the Melanson, a player known more for his physical abilities.
The team was scheduled to return today and practice tomorrow. Washington plays host to Boston on Thursday night. Defenseman J.F. Fortin and forwards Glen Metropolit and Alex Henry were the healthy scratches. Stephen Peat and Dainius Zubrus remain on injured reserve with hand injuries.

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