- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

A new coach means new routines, new drills, a different way to do things. For the Washington Capitals under Bruce Cassidy, it means longer and more active practices that usually end with some kind of hard skate to build conditioning.
"To me, conditioning is always a factor," Cassidy said. "We've played the first few games for the most part with 10 forwards. If guys want their ice time which they do and I'd like to give our top end guys as many minutes as they can handle then they've got to have the aerobic capacity or the conditioning to do it."
And there have been no complaints from the players. They figured that these daily routines weren't punishment; they were going to make them better players and in the end, the Caps a better team.
"I think we need this," said defenseman Calle Johansson, the senior member of the team. "It doesn't matter if practices are an hour or if they're an hour and 20 minutes as long as you're doing good things out there. If you're just standing around, then it's no good, but we're skating and doing good stuff so it doesn't bother me at all."
Cassidy's days sometimes start with a video session. "You have to learn, and you learn from your mistakes," he said, "and you can also learn from doing things properly. One of the areas where we had problems in the first few games was turnovers. I thought we did a good job in the neutral zone breaking through in New York; it's just at the blue line our decisions were not good, and it resulted in some rushes going the other way."
Cassidy's practices are designed to keep as many people moving as possible; breaks for water are built in. An occupied person, he believes, isn't a bored person. And in today's game, being in top shape is not an option, it's mandatory.
"The players aren't dumb; they know they have to be in top shape," Cassidy said. "No one wants to embarrass themselves [by huffing and puffing in a corner], especially when you're talking about quicker faceoffs. On special teams, I'm trying to find guys who don't have to do both for us to be successful. Some guys are going to overlap, and they're going to have to be where their conditioning will allow them to do that. Conditioning does become a bigger factor."
Meanwhile, the Caps yesterday claimed Andreas Salomonsson off waivers from New Jersey. The Devils had been trying to slip the left wing through to assign him to their Albany, N.Y., farm team. To make room, Washington re-assigned left wing Matt Pettinger to Portland.
This is the second season in North America for Salomonsson, who is almost 29 and has played for 12 seasons in Sweden. He split time last season between the Devils and their farm team; he had four goals and nine points in 39 games with New Jersey.
General manager George McPhee said Salomonsson is more in the mold of Swedish players who specialize in defense. "Our scouts actually spotted him a while back," McPhee said. "They were intrigued by his play, his speed and his reliability. Maybe he can be a better fit."
Pettinger, a second-round pick in 2000, had only a so-so training camp and hadn't done much in his one game this season. One Caps official said he hoped the trip to Portland was a wakeup call.


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