- The Washington Times - Friday, January 18, 2002

MONTREAL Are you ready for Plan C?

The Washington Capitals, already hobbled by a staggering series of injuries, lost one and possibly two more regulars in Wednesday night's 2-0 loss to Montreal, but other players who had been out injured might be ready to return.

Center Jeff Halpern, who was run into the boards in the opening minutes Wednesday night, is out with a knee injury. He could barely walk yesterday morning and was being returned to Washington for further examination. There was no word how long he will be out.

Ken Klee, who had been playing a critical role as a rover in coach Ron Wilson's Plan B alignment that substituted a mobile defenseman for a center playing the high defensive position, injured a leg muscle and did not skate yesterday. His availability for tonight's game against the Red Wings in Detroit is not known.

Expected back tonight are defenseman Brendan Witt (sprained thumb) and wing Ulf Dahlen (bruised instep). Dahlen has not played more than part of one period since before Christmas and has practiced only twice.

Another player who did not practice yesterday was right wing Jaromir Jagr, who injured his groin eight days ago. There is no estimate on when he will be available, although he said in a TV interview he was hoping for the middle of next week. Jagr might be placed on seven-day injured reserve to make room on the roster.

To make room for Witt, rookie defenseman Nolan Yonkman was returned to Portland, Maine, the coaches seemingly very pleased with the development he exhibited during his brief stay with the parent team.

Another opening developed later in the day when the Caps traded defenseman Joe Reekie, 36, to Chicago for a fourth-round draft choice in June. Reekie was picked from Tampa Bay in March 1994 and had played more than 500 games for the Caps. Never fleet, he became noticeably slower during the past year a factor in the Caps being one of the slowest teams in the league.

When asked about a system the team might employ against the Red Wings, Wilson said, "I don't know what we're going to do, other than we'll probably dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen. If [Klee] can't play, we've got to figure out something else to do."

Plan C?

"No," Wilson said with a chuckle. "We're just feeling our way around, trying to tighten the tourniquet and stop the bleeding. We've got to find a way to get more opportunities on the power play, I can say that, because that can make the difference for us. Defensively, we're playing well but, obviously, with people missing from our lineup, offensively it's been tough to score goals."

Washington had been on the verge of breaking even before the loss to the Canadiens but now is two games below .500 and facing one of the more powerful home teams in the league. The Wings are ranked No. 1 in the league.

"We've got to find a way for other people to give a little bit more if that's possible," Wilson said, noting that Jagr was missing again.

"But it's funny, when you ask guys to give more, they try and they get hurt. That's the bad part of the situation we're in."

Halpern, who had been experiencing problems in his third season, had been playing the way he performed last season once Wilson was forced into using Plan B. And Klee, who at one point this season was a part-timer, was elevated to the important rover spot with Sergei Gonchar.

The thing that made Plan B so successful goalie Olie Kolzig went nearly 165 minutes without allowing a goal is that it strictly limits the opponents' movement back and forth, clogging up the middle of the ice.

The unfortunate part is that it severely limits offensive production from the team that is using it, one of the reasons the Caps won back-to-games by 1-0 scores.

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