- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

Somewhere around midnight Saturday, the Washington Capitals' coaching staff decided that yesterday would not be a good day for the team to take off. It didn't make any difference to the coaches, still sitting in a rink in St. Paul, Minn., that there was no ice time reserved or that dozens of schedules would have to be altered.
When you fail to follow explicit instructions, get shut out by a recent expansion team's backup goaltender, accumulate a total of 28 shots in a two-game road trip and record no victories, it may be time to alter a few schedules.
Thus the Caps worked for 75 minutes yesterday at Piney Orchard, skating in reasonably disciplined order, doing pushups when their shots did not at least hit the goalie or net. They spent the last 10 minutes of the session doing sprints across the ice surface.
Coaches never refer to practices as disciplinary measures even though a lot of them are. If yesterday's wasn't a disciplinary exercise, it certainly sent a very clear message: More of these "practices" may be on the way if there isn't some rapid improvement.
"We're being outplayed and as coaches we're trying to find out why," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "Is it the makeup of the team? Do we just lack competitiveness? Are we not letting them play to their strengths? We lack passion right now and as a coach you've got to get that. But the players need to get some jump to their play. They have to want to get it done, be committed. It's a tough game now, you've got to earn everything you get out there."
Back in St. Paul, Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire was singing the praises of Washington's Olie Kolzig, saying the goalie robbed his players of several sure goals. Lemaire said his team's 1-0 win was an injustice under the circumstances.
Kolzig, a loyal soldier since he was drafted in 1989, hummed the company tune and said the team was going through a phase and his teammates would soon regain their scoring touch.
"We've got to get better," left wing Steve Konowalchuk said. "We've got to get more people back on the same page. That's what we worked on in practice, kind of back to the basics, make sure we're doing things together. You can help each other so much when you're playing together and right now we're not playing together enough."
Or at all, perhaps. Cassidy moved personnel around on his forward lines again, trying to find any three people who could complete a series of passes.
"We're just trying to find some offense," the coach said. He moved first line center Robert Lang to the left side and boosted center/wing Dainius Zubrus to first line pivot from his fourth line exile. Kip Miller, the left wing on the first unit, was moved to the right side on the checking unit. Mike Grier, the old right side checker, became the right wing on the second line and was charged with getting the puck to Peter Bondra and Michael Nylander.
And, there was no indication that was the end of it.
"A day like today isn't going to take a lot out of the players," Cassidy said. "I think its mind over matter sometimes. I don't think we worked them to the bone; we had a little skate there at the end. It was mostly stuff we needed to do. We worked on our forechecking and low plays for forwards, getting the puck to the net quicker."
During the workout, there were meetings along the boards, with and without the blackboard, to illustrate what was needed or what went wrong. There were team meetings, offensive meetings, defensive meetings. It is a good bet there will be more meetings today.
Struggling San Jose is in town tomorrow. The Sharks will be a good test to see if the Caps absorbed anything yesterday.


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