- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

There were times early last season when it was impossible to determine whether the Washington Capitals were comatose or just going through the motions very slowly.

The answer was simple when their season ended: One more victory and they would have gone to postseason instead of the Montreal Canadiens.

Washington lost nearly half of last season's 33 defeats in the first 51 days of the campaign, a reason why opponents are rumored to beg for games against the Caps before Thanksgiving.

The Caps are trying to change their starts. Goalie Olie Kolzig said it best: "You can't make these points up in April, so we want to get them now."

The fact that there are 80 games left in an 82-game schedule is immaterial to what the team is trying to accomplish erase the mentality that there is plenty of time remaining. The attitude they want: do it now.

"I've seen more urgency out of the team after the first week, but it's built slowly," said coach Bruce Cassidy, who wasn't with the Caps last season. "Last week did we play with urgency in New York [against the Islanders] at the start? No, but we did in the second period and found ways to win it."

Washington gets a chance to start backing up its new attitude starting tonight against Carolina in Raleigh, Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia and Sunday night in Dallas, games 2, 3 and 4 in its eight-game road swing.

"We're 2-0 and things are going good, but we haven't really accomplished anything," Kolzig said. "We've gotten off to a better start than we have in the past but this is a [Southeast Division] game, an early four-point game, we played great against them in training camp and this is an opportunity to knock them a little further behind us. We want to make up for last year."

The Caps are 2-0 because they finished strongly in both games, scoring late third-period goals to salvage a victory when a tie seemed to be on the agenda. They won twice despite drawing 10 penalties in each of those games; they scored four power play goals and gave up three.

"I try to avoid last year as much as I can," Cassidy said. "I think [the players] are all aware of what happened. If it becomes an issue, we'll address it, but I'd prefer it doesn't become an issue."

The same holds true for captain Steve Konowalchuk.

"We all know [what happened] there's nothing that needs to be said," he noted. "What we're doing now is worrying about this year. We know what's at stake and how we screwed up in the past."

Meanwhile, left wing Andreas Salomonsson joined the team yesterday after being claimed off waivers from New Jersey and immediately showed he was as skilled as advertised and faster than thought. He played on the fourth line with Glen Metropolit at center and Mike Farrell or Stephen Peat on the right side.

"Most of the time, a guy like that who's had a good career in Sweden (12 seasons in the Swedish Elite League), you can guess they're pretty accountable and reliable away from the puck, trustworthy or whatever you want to call it," Cassidy said. "I guess what we're hoping is that he just didn't fit in with New Jersey and he can be a better fit here."

Where Salomonsson will end up is anybody's guess. Cassidy doesn't etch line combinations in stone; he moves players around like chess pieces.

"I tend to mix up my lines and if there's an area where we can use him that's better, we will," the coach said. "Let's work him in, see what he's got and go from there."


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