- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

TORONTO Players leaving practice early usually is not that noteworthy, but when the two guys involved account for more than a third of a team's 49 goals, it suddenly becomes so.
Jaromir Jagr and Peter Bondra left Washington Capitals practice early yesterday morning before the team chartered to Toronto for tonight's game against the Maple Leafs.
"Jagr had a little muscle soreness or tightening or whatever you want to call it," coach Bruce Cassidy said, not getting more specific as to the location. "He asked if he could go off, and I said 'sure.'"
Bondra missed his first game of the season Saturday night with back spasms, but yesterday he looked like the Bondra of old, perhaps even better.
"He was good, [but] it just looked like it was starting to bother him later in the practice, so I said, 'There's no use taking two steps backwards,'" Cassidy said.
"I'm guessing Jagr will be able to play, but that's his decision, and Peter, I don't know. You'd like to see him make it through a full practice obviously, but if he says he's ready to go, he goes."
Jagr has 11 goals and 24 points to lead the team, while Bondra has 15 points, including eight goals.
Washington only gave up seven shots to Atlanta in the first period Saturday night, but two of them ended up behind goalie Olie Kolzig, one on a 3-on-none and the second on a breakaway.
"It's not like we got bombarded," Cassidy said. "We made some individual mistakes that we need to correct little things that are very correctable, but it's also part of being mentally sharp. As a coach it's frustrating because you can't remind them about every detail before every game or you'd drive them nuts. Yeah, it's an issue. We've got to be better focused. It's just little things that shouldn't happen."
Steve Eminger, the 19-year-old rookie defenseman, is not far from Kitchener, Ontario, where he (and Scott Stevens) played junior hockey. Eminger, drafted 12th overall last June, made the team straight out of training camp but has played just 13 of the first 21 games. He is minus-4 defensively, which is not all that bad considering all the goals the Caps have given up so far, but some wonder why he is in the NHL playing 10 minutes a game and not back in junior playing 25-30 a night.
"Having played three to four years of junior, we felt he would be better practicing at a higher tempo against men than going back and playing 30 minutes [but maybe] develop bad habits in practice," Cassidy said. "We just thought that even if he plays 40, 50 games here that he would be better served in the long run.
"We also thought he makes us better now. He's played well for us, not great, not bad, but well. He's been consistent. He's been solid. I have no complaints. I told him the other day when you're in a losing streak I want to give the older guys a chance to get us out of it. He's basically our sixth, seventh guy, rotates in and out."


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