- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Does it just seem that way, or is it a fact that the last time the Washington Capitals beat the Penguins in Pittsburgh, Terry Bradshaw was still the Steelers quarterback?

It only seems that way. The Caps won in Pittsburgh as recently as March 2001 and will get another crack at Mario Lemieux and Co. tonight. A victory would do wonders for the confidence of the struggling club.

"The guys don't seem to have any trouble getting up for Pittsburgh," coach Bruce Cassidy said when he was asked to assess the team's mood. "They just have trouble winning in Pittsburgh." And Cassidy has only coached against the Penguins once.

Washington, still smarting over a 5-4 loss in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon, faces the Penguins tonight with a shrinking roster. Wing-center Dainius Zubrus returned to Washington yesterday to have his injured hand and wrist examined, while another player came down with what is being described as food poisoning.

Defenseman J.F. Fortin missed the Thrashers game and didn't practice yesterday, and defenseman Ken Klee also missed practice with the same problem, the source of which has not been determined. Zubrus is definitely out for tonight, and the availability of the others is not known.

The Caps yesterday recalled defenseman Jason Doig from Portland. Doig had a goal and four assists in 21 games and set up the winning goal in overtime Sunday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., against the Penguins' top farm team. Doig led the Pirates with 66 penalty minutes.

"Obviously, we have to get a sense of urgency into our game," Cassidy said. At the moment the Caps are 12th in the 15-team Eastern Conference and have won only two of their last 10. They are 1-6-2 in their last nine road games, and some of them, like Sunday's game in Atlanta, were winnable.

"I thought, honestly, we played a very good defensive game in Atlanta even though we gave up five goals," Cassidy said, knowing in advance that the statement might not seem to make a lot of sense. He meant it was a better defensive performance than the 6-2 embarrassment Ottawa hung on Washington two nights earlier, in which the Senators scored at will and stopped shooting only when fatigue set in.

"We made a few individual mistakes against the Thrashers that really hurt us," Cassidy said. "But as a team we backchecked better. We didn't give up as many quality chances we gave up maybe 10. We deserved better than a loss in Atlanta, but we broke down occasionally and we have to accept what we are we lost to Atlanta, one of the lowest teams in the league."

Doig, 25, came close to making the Caps out of training camp. He is not going to be a major offensive force but is strong around the net and enjoys the physical aspect of the game. Washington picked him up as a free agent during the summer.

Notes Two Washington prospects and possibly a member of the current team will play for Team Canada in the World Junior championship in Halifax, Nova Scotia, later this month. Named to the team are defenseman Nathan Paetsch, from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, who won a silver medal with the team last season, and right wing Boyd Gordon, from Red Deer, Alberta. Eligible to play is Caps defenseman Steve Eminger, the last cut for Team Canada last season.

Eminger is eligible to compete and has been invited to the training camp, but the Caps have yet to make a formal commitment to Team Canada that would bind the 19-year-old to the tournament.

"I told Team Canada that if [the Caps] are healthy, I'm going to let him go," general manager George McPhee said. "He's certainly somebody we believe would help their team. It's great for a young player's development, and it's a wonderful experience. We'd like him to participate. We know if he does he'll come back a better player. And barring the unforeseen, he'll be going next week."

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