- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2002

The Washington Capitals made a rare claim in the waiver draft yesterday but all that did was further muddy an already unsettled roster picture.

The Caps plucked Pittsburgh defenseman Rick Berry off the available list, giving the club 11 defenders in camp, at least three more than will be here Monday afternoon. And veteran goalie Craig Billington, who was exposed, was not claimed, giving the team three goalies, one more than necessary.

None of that mattered last night. Glen Metropolit scored three goals and Olie Kolzig turned in another very solid performance as the Caps routed Carolina 5-1 at MCI Center. Washington is now 3-3-0-1 in preseason; a week ago, the team was 0-3-0-1.

"Hard work is paying off a little bit now," said Metropolit, who has bounced back and forth among the Caps, Tampa Bay and the minors for the past four seasons. "I've got all the confidence in the world right now. The guys are playing great, I'm getting great support from whomever I'm playing with."

Last night's game, with more than 13,000 on hand, was decided early in the third period. Up 3-1, the Caps took a series of four straight minors and were shorthanded two men for 1:41. Using a system of two forwards and one defenseman in front of Kolzig, the Caps held the Hurricanes to just two harmless shots on goal.

"We've gotten better every time out," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "I think we're [playing] more and more like a team and less and less as individuals. The big-play guys are going out and going to do their thing, but I like the way we're sticking together. There were a lot of positives, it's a good way to go."

Robert Lang got his first goal as a Cap and Peter Bondra added his sixth of preseason, one more than Metropolit.

The Caps conclude the exhibition season at 3 p.m. today against the Flyers in Philadelphia.

Washington grabbed Berry, a solid if unspectacular defender, in hopes he could give the team something it currently doesn't have enough of on the blue line, another player who enjoys taking the body. One scout said he "wasn't a bone-crusher" but was not afraid to be physical.

Berry, 24, was taken 55th overall in 1997 by Colorado and has played 89 NHL games. He came to the Penguins in the deal that sent Darius Kasparaitis to the Avalanche.

"He's a physical player, likes to finish his checks and plays hard," said Caps general manager George McPhee. "He's good down low in his own end, so when we saw that and ranked our defense top to bottom, we thought he could fit in a support role."

Washington won't make a decision on the final roster until management and coaches meet over the weekend. McPhee said he would let the coaches pick the roster, the 23 players they want to keep.

The names of 13 forwards are pretty much decided as is the starting goaltender. A backup goalie brings that figure to 15, leaving eight spots open for eight defensemen or seven blueliners and a second spare forward.

If Washington starts the season with two goalies, as is likely, they will probably be Kolzig and Sebastien Charpentier. Billington cleared waivers yesterday and would not have to clear again to be sent down; Charpentier would have to clear and might be grabbed.

"We haven't ruled anybody out," McPhee said of the defensemen. He claimed all 11 on the roster, including standout rookie Steve Eminger, are still in consideration for the final roster. Logic, however, would say spots have already been claimed by Calle Johansson, Sergei Gonchar, Brendan Witt, Ken Klee, Sylvain Cote and probably J.F. Fortin. That leaves one or two openings at best unless there are a few surprises, as one team official insists there will be.

Notes McPhee said there was nothing new in the mostly off-again negotiations between the team and holdout centers Andrei Nikolishin and Dainius Zubrus. "We're going to finalize our roster this week and see what else develops," McPhee said of the veterans. "We'll play without them. They're injured players as far as we're concerned." …

The team and agents for Eminger also met for most of yesterday trying to work out a deal; the rookie has to be signed before he can play, and right now he is in the Caps' plans. …

Rookie center Brian Sutherby didn't play last night and probably won't today, resting a bruised shoulder. And there finally is good news about center Jeff Halpern, sidelined with a groin injury. Cassidy said he went through the entire pre-game skate routine yesterday successfully. The coach said he was optimistic the Montgomery County native would be ready to start the season next Friday night barring a setback. He said Halpern would be rusty, having missed all eight preseason games.

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