- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Washington Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy and members of his first power play unit spent a lot of time yesterday standing in front of goalie Olie Kolzig, everybody pointing to certain spots on the ice, sometimes everybody jabbering away at once.
It was more than casual conversation, especially for a team that is winless in its last three games, has scored a grand total of three goals over that span and couldn't draw a penalty even if the other team were using chainsaws.
"When you're not scoring, you need to find offense somewhere," said Cassidy after a 90-minute practice, about 40 minutes of which was spent on the power play. He drilled the first unit while assistant coach Randy Carlyle worked with the second group.
"Now if we could just draw some penalties so I can put all this to good work," he said. Washington has had just 4:10 worth of power play time in its last two games, not enough to scare anybody.
The offensive problems the Caps are facing seem to be mounting. The Capitals have scored just 38 goals this season, ranking 14th out of 15 teams in the East and 28th out of 30 in the league. Of the 38 goals, 14 are on the power play and two more shorthanded.
Stephen Peat, the enforcer sidelined with a hand injury, has more goals (one) than nine of his teammates who have played at least 10 games this season. Four players, including last season's top-scoring defenseman in the league, Sergei Gonchar, have just one goal apiece.
The power play is the most disappointing. It is scoring just 15.9 percent of the time, 17th in the league, despite a staggering array of firepower. But not only is it not connecting on a regular basis, many times it can't even get set up in the offensive zone before the opposition takes possession and reverses the flow.
The key is to find a way to make the critical pieces Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra, Robert Lang and Gonchar work like they had been together for years instead of minutes.
"We're just talking about the power play," Cassidy said about the stoppages, gestures and chat sessions on the ice. "We're just trying to get everyone's ideas, that's how things get done. I think [Jagr] has good ideas, I have ideas, I like to talk to Bondra, too. There's a lot going on behind the scenes.
"They have ideas; they're both guys who have scored goals on the power play, so you try to find out what's worked for them in the past."
One thing the first unit worked on yesterday was moving Jagr from his position of quarterback along the halfboards to a spot low along the goal line where he could have more control over what goes on in the slot. Yesterday, Dainius Zubrus was in front of the goaltender, utilizing his size and toughness to remain there to cause confusion and interfere with the defense while trying to redirect shots into the net.
"I like Jagr down low because he's got such a good stick and a nose for the puck, I think he can get a lot of rebound goals," Cassidy said. "He's comfortable on the half wall, he's had success there [but] I'd like to see him down on the goal line a little more often. Because with Gonchar's shots, they get through and there's a lot of slop laying around down there. Jagr, with his body, he's not afraid to stick his nose in there."
One thing is clear: There is no doubt about whom is not to blame for the Caps' current problems. Kolzig went through last weekend with a 0-1-1 record and his standing among league goalies rose from 16th to 10th.
Notes Defenseman Brendan Witt has practiced two days in a row, but it is not clear if he will play tonight. He bruised a shoulder more than a week ago and missed seven games but hasn't had any real contact. Bondra left practice early Sunday and missed it completely yesterday to have an MRI taken on an injured ankle. No break was revealed, a club spokesman said. It was assumed Bondra would be in the lineup tonight.



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