- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Plan B, the Washington Capitals' unorthodox use of personnel, has become so successful in such a short time that the deep thinkers atop the organization are already tinkering with it, attempting to refine the process.
Of course, the first time the team gets thumped using Plan B, it might get refined right into the trash. Then there is the potential problem of what happens when the injured and ailing players return, negating the reason the Caps went to Plan B in the first place.
Coach Ron Wilson has confronted all the what-ifs and has decided on a game-by-game process, deciding what to do when a particular situation arises.
Plan B uses two forechecking forwards, two defensemen and a mobile player in the middle usually defensemen Sergei Gonchar or Ken Klee but wing Dainius Zubrus is joining the mix. It was forced on the team when severe manpower problems hit. Wilson said he first heard of the system while he was playing with Davos in the Swiss league in the 1980s.
Using Plan B, the Caps have gone 3-0-1 and have shut out their last two opponents. Olie Kolzig has run up a scoreless string of 139 minutes, 34 seconds. The team is still a game under .500 (19-20-8) but can reach break-even tonight with a win against the Canadiens in Montreal.
"We'll have decisions to make according to the team we're playing, where we're playing, who's playing well," he said yesterday. "We can change [systems] in midgame if we have to. It's the same system [the team had been using], only there is a defenseman where a center was. We've played three games doing this, and now all of a sudden we're above the playoff [cutoff] line."
The manpower shortage the club was down to 10 forwards and eight defensemen that brought the system about also resulted in four players being called up from Portland, Maine, of the American Hockey League. Three of the four defensemen J.F. Fortin and Todd Rohloff and forward Colin Forbes have played well; the fourth, defenseman Nolan Yonkman, has played just one game and did an adequate job in his NHL debut.
"We've improved the mobility of our defense, and that's really helped," Wilson said. "We've had two young guys play solid for three games and then throw in Yonkman, and I think he'll do fine, too, because he's mobile and big and can skate. We've also increased our physicality."
That the youngsters have done well also presents another problem: what to do when everybody is healthy and there are too many bodies to fit under the league's 23-man roster limit. Center Trent Whitfield already has been placed on waivers, clearing the roster spot for Yonkman.
"For some people the pressure is to get the job done in the next couple games," said Wilson, admitting the newcomers haven't disgraced themselves. "The young defensemen are earning a job, simple as that. We're better, we're more mobile, we move the puck better. We're also defending very well with these young guys in the lineup. They haven't goofed, so why would we not continue to play them? We've probably got decisions to make."
Notes
Jaromir Jagr, who has missed three games with a slight groin strain, skated for about 15 minutes, then left the ice in pain. "It's the worst I've felt," he said, ruling himself out for tonight.
Defenseman Brendan Witt, out for six games with a sprained thumb, took the full practice, and Wilson hopes to use him Friday in Detroit or Saturday against Vancouver. …
Wing Ulf Dahlen, who has missed 12 of the last 13 with a bruised foot, is scheduled to skate today, and if everything goes well, he could be ready for Atlanta next Tuesday. …
Wing Matt Pettinger is the latest flu victim but said he felt somewhat better yesterday. He did not practice.

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