- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

Barring an unforeseen problem, Olie Kolzig will be in goal for the Washington Capitals tonight. That's the good news.
The bad news: When the Caps activate Kolzig from injured reserve, the team has to make room on the roster.
Kolzig worked out yesterday for the third day in a row and pronounced himself ready. He went through an extended and vigorous practice, saying he took more shots than he can remember.
His activation will give Washington three goaltenders one too many. Craig Billington and Sebastien Charpentier have played since Kolzig was injured, and it appears one may go. Where and how are the questions.
"It looks like [Olie] is ready," general manager George McPhee said yesterday after a meeting with coach Bruce Cassidy following practice. "We'll make a decision [today]" on how the overcrowding problem is solved.
Washington plays host to Florida tonight in the first of a three-game homestand, the longest of the season for the Caps. The team has played 10 of its first 13 games on the road, posting a respectable 4-5-1 record that could have been better.
"[Kolzig] felt good today, so [playing] is a possibility," Cassidy said. "We'll see how he is in the morning. If not [tonight], then hopefully by Saturday."
Kolzig sprained his left wrist during the morning skate Oct.28 in Pittsburgh. He said he made a routine stop, then reached behind himself to brace his body as he fell to the ice.
"It's something that happens in practice every day, but this time it just tore," the goalie said. "I felt something, then it got weaker and then there was a lot of pain."
There is no doubt in his mind that he is ready to resume. He has a record of 4-2-0 with a 2.07 goals-against average to go with an excellent .939 save percentage.
"I'd love to go [tonight]," Kolzig said. "I think I'm good enough to get in there. After today, I think it's just a matter of getting into a game. The plan was that if I had a good practice and if I felt I was ready that I'd be going. I feel ready."
The decision about which goalie to send down if it is decided a goalie will go is complex and could be costly.
Billington clearly outplayed Charpentier in training camp but he was demoted when the season opened. That decision was reversed after opening day. Charpentier went to Portland, where he had a record of 1-1-2 with a .933 save percentage. He was called up when Kolzig was injured and has played the last three games with a 2-1-0 record. His 2-1 loss to Philadelphia was by far his best game.
Billington has performed in spurts, playing well in one game and poorly in another. He has been unable to get back into a game because the younger Charpentier is playing so well.
But far more than stats go into this decision. If Charpentier stays and backs up Kolzig, he will see little action this season, seriously hindering his development. If the Caps decide to send him back to Portland, he could be claimed off waivers and lost to the team forever right when it appears he has passed his apprenticeship.
Billington has shown in the past he is a capable and stable backup at this level. It makes no sense to send him to Portland, where there are a pair of developing youngsters (Maxime Ouellet and Rastislav Stana) fighting for ice time. Splitting that ice time three ways can only hurt the youngsters.
Meanwhile, another problem has developed. Rookie defenseman Steve Eminger, picked 12th overall last June, has played nine NHL games. He becomes a bona fide NHLer if he appears in one more game this season, drawing a full salary with the year counting toward pension and benefits.
But he has been a healthy scratch four times, including the last two games in a row. There appears to be a growing belief that at age 19 he would benefit more from playing 25 to 30 minutes a game for his junior club in Kitchener, Ontario, than playing nine minutes a game for Washington.
"He's still here" was all McPhee would say yesterday about Eminger. But returning the defenseman to juniors would solve, for the time being anyway, the problem of staying within the roster limit of 23.
Of course, there was also talk that McPhee was on the verge of making another major trade.
No comment from McPhee on that, either.

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