- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 5, 2002

The only consistent thing about the Washington Capitals' season has been its inconsistency.

A mediocre effort is followed by an absolute stinker, which is followed by a sensational effort that may or may not produce a point. There have been times when an individual Jaromir Jagr or Olie Kolzig or Sebastien Charpentier come to mind has an outstanding night but is the only Cap present in body and spirit.

New coach Bruce Cassidy has watched his players during the first month of the regular season and yesterday introduced what he hopes are the lines he sticks with, the units that will lead to some consistency.

At the same time he, the club and Kolzig got some good news when the goalie returned to practice after spending a week resting his sprained left wrist. He is eligible to come off injured reserve today but will not play tonight against the Blue Jackets in Columbus. He could see action at home Thursday against Florida or Saturday against Philadelphia.

The forwards units, left to right as they worked yesterday: Dainius Zubrus, Robert Lang, Jagr; Andreas Salomonsson, Michael Nylander, Peter Bondra; Steve Konowalchuk, Jeff Halpern, Mike Grier; Kip Miller, Brian Sutherby, Stephen Peat leaving Glen Metropolit as the spare forward.

There is flexibility everywhere. Lang and Nylander, for instance, were billed as 1 and 1a by Cassidy and may be flopped now and then for variety. Salomonssson is a natural left wing, but that has been Bondra's position for the past two seasons, Cassidy will let Bondra make the call there as to who lines up where.

Halpern's unit reforms the checking unit, which was extremely successful for Washington for two seasons, the only difference being that Grier has replaced the departed Ulf Dahlen on the right side.

Cassidy doesn't use his fourth line as a unit often, meaning Miller will probably be spotted higher to spell a player having an off night. Peat, the team's designated hitter, will be used where needed same with Metropolit, an excellent utility man. Ice time will have to be found for Sutherby, as earned, because the 20-year-old can't learn on the bench.

"I hope the juggling is over," Cassidy said. "It's my intention to keep these guys together. I think we can generate some offense this way because we've got speed, good size and a good mix throughout."

Cassidy has been mixing things up sometimes from the first shift, trying to find some chemistry where none has existed. His penchant for dropping to three lines almost immediately has allowed him to double-shift Jagr and Bondra at times, but that has failed to produce offense consistently. The Caps are averaging just more than two goals a game even with a scary arsenal of weapons.

Kolzig sprained his wrist Oct.28 during the morning skate in Pittsburgh. He apparently came down on it the wrong way while leaning backward. It was sore at first, and everybody thought he would be ready by that night but instead, the level of pain increased to the point where he couldn't use it at all. He went on IR immediately after the game.

"It's as good as it's going to feel," he said yesterday after taking shots for 30 minutes after his teammates worked for 75. "There's no real pain, it's not weak so it's just a matter of getting back on the ice and tolerating things, get the rust off and see where we're at. We'll see how the skate goes [today in Columbus], and I'll have a complete practice Wednesday.

"I'm looking at Saturday [to return], but it depends on how things are going. If Charpy has another game like he did [Saturday] in Philadelphia, that will give me a few more days to get ready. There's no timetable. It depends on my wrist."

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