- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2002

While admitting the thought has crossed his mind, Washington Capitals coach Ron Wilson said he has ruled out for now returning to the system wherein the team had three defensemen on the ice at all times.
The Caps have lost six of their last seven and found a new way to lose Sunday afternoon, in overtime, a first for this season. The team has been outscored 24-13 over that stretch.
Manpower limitations had forced the club to go with a 2-1-2 system, basically the same as what it now uses except the center was replaced with a mobile defenseman. The team went 2-1-1 while using that system for all or part of a game.
"That means we have to take a couple forwards out, and I'm awful hesitant to do that," Wilson said yesterday. "We'll continue to … work on the things we need to work on to be better. We have to do a better job. We have to be committed to playing hard in our own end. It's no secret if you get in the way of the other team's players, if you get in the way of the puck, they can't score and we're not doing enough of that at the right time."
With the All-Star break this weekend and the two-week Olympic break 12 days after that, the Caps "are desperate," in the words of goalie Olie Kolzig, but they are not out of the playoff hunt. With 28 games left, Washington was just five points out of a playoff spot before last night's games, but the calendar is becoming a factor.
Based on projected performance, Washington right now would miss postseason by nine points, finishing in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 75 points. Projections indicate 84 points would be needed at a minimum to grab the last playoff spot in the East.
"We're in a tough situation, but not by any stretch of the imagination are we in an impossible one," Wilson said after a 45-minute practice yesterday. "If we realize that and dig in hard enough, we can salvage the season. And if you can get to the playoffs, anything's possible. We've seen a lot of teams manage to do that, come on strong at the end and when nobody thinks they can do anything, surprise people."
Wilson yesterday cited the looming Salt Lake City Winter Games as one of the distractions his and some other teams might be facing. The Caps have six players who might be competing in the Games, depending on which countries advance from the qualifying round.
"This isn't about being ready for the Olympics, as far as I'm concerned," he said, "it's what can we do to help the Washington Capitals get themselves in the playoffs and win the next game."
Washington has been unable to put anything approaching a positive lengthy streak together this season and the frustration level is rising after each loss, every one seemingly more staggering than the previous.
"We played great [Sunday] for 59 minutes and we're up 2-1," Wilson said. "And it's not that we're playing poor defensively, we're getting the job done. But at the end, at a crucial time, we didn't. Psychologically, we've just got to let go of what's been going wrong and focus on the next game and what's going to go right."

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