- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002


Seen and heard last night at MCI Center:
ZUBIE BACK The Caps brought forward Dainius Zubrus off injured reserve. The wing was injured Nov.26 in Toronto, played Dec.1 in Atlanta then had surgery on his right hand to have a bone spur removed, the remains of an injury a year ago. To make room for Zubrus, center Trent Whitfield was re-assigned to Portland in the American Hockey League.
Zubrus started against the Sabres as the center on the fourth line until his conditioning level could be determined after missing 14 of the last 15 games. The plan was to move him up to right wing on the second line with Peter Bondra and Robert Lang.
"He adds an element of speed and puck possession through the neutral zone to that line," said coach Bruce Cassidy. "He'll bring people to him and hopefully get the puck to those guys. They're both shooters, Lang and Bondra. They make nice plays but they like to shoot."
The line has not been what it was hoped it would be from the start, lacking some element that would make it as dangerous as management had thought it had the potential to be.
"I don't think they've ever found the third wheel on that line," Cassidy said, pointing out that a wide variety of players have been with the Lang-Bondra pair but no real chemistry. "I think they need someone to work the corners for them and get them puck on a regular basis."
Zubrus scored on his first shift back.
WELCOME ADDITION Trent Whitfield was the leading scorer in Portland (12 goals, 28 points in 25 games) when he was called up Dec.11. He returned to the Pirates yesterday after nine games with the Caps and he is still the Pirates' leading scorer.
Part of the reason for that is the Pirates are a hurting bunch right now. They have five regulars out (defensemen Nolan Yonkman, Matt Libby and Nate Forster and wings Mark Murphy and Roman Tvrdon) and there are another five players currently with the Caps who spent at least some time in Maine this season.
All of which bodes well for first-year coach Tim Hunter, an assistant with the Caps for the previous five seasons. This is Hunter's first season as a head coach.
Dave Fay

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