- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 28, 2002

RALEIGH, N.C. There were moments late in Thursday night's 4-3 overtime loss in Dallas when Washington Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy could have put different players on the ice, plugged holes here and there and come away with his first NHL victory.
But that would have defeated the purpose of the preseason: to watch youngsters and see how they respond to certain situations, to see how their learning and maturity processes have come along and to be able to make an accurate assessment of whether the individuals can help the big club or need more seasoning.
"It bugs me that we haven't won," Cassidy said yesterday after a 75-minute workout at the Carolina Hurricanes' practice facility, "but we've gone the extra mile on defense to make sure we're getting young guys in the lineup that we want to get a look at. We want to be able to evaluate, and [Thursday] night was an example of that.
"[Goalie Sebastien] Charpentier just didn't have it, for whatever reason. Craig Billington was hot, he was in a zone and I thought about leaving him in there. But I thought we want to make evaluations, we want to make legitimate decisions at the end of camp and maybe it cost us a game. We've done that with defensemen, certain line combinations, penalty killing that's part of the process right now."
Cassidy has been going with remnants of lines used a lot last season while learning what each individual, rookies and veterans alike, can do. He said yesterday that some changes are forthcoming, maybe not tonight against the Hurricanes in Raleigh but before the season starts Oct.11.
"We've looked to try to evaluate during this process, and maybe that's had an effect on the outcome, especially in Dallas," Cassidy said, adding that the process wasn't done. The club is six players over the 23-man maximum, not counting two holdouts.
"I think we all have an idea where everyone is [in the pecking order], but on defense I can honestly say I don't think anybody has separated themselves from the others when we're looking at those depth guys," Cassidy said. "And that includes [rookie] Steve Eminger in the mix and Nolan Yonkman, who has played here [before], as has Todd Rohloff and Jason Doig. So we have to keep going."
While the game against the Stars had a bad ending, Washington was in complete control for 48 minutes with a 3-0 lead. The team was doing everything well, and while Dallas had chances, they were rejected by the two goalies and promptly cleared by the defense.
But a power-play goal by Jason Arnott at 8:29 of the third opened the gates, with Mike Modano sealing the visitors' fate 19 seconds into overtime. The sudden turnaround prompted one Dallas player to remark that it was the first time during preseason that his club had played that well for more than a few minutes at a time.
But that's what preseason is all about.
Notes Center Jeff Halpern, who was on the ice Thursday for the pregame skate, did not take the ice yesterday, instead getting treatment on his tender groin. The recovery time for groin injuries is tough to predict; the team is growing concerned, as is Halpern. Defenseman Brendan Witt is scheduled to rejoin the team today after spending time with his ailing wife.
The club and agents for holdout centers Andrei Nikolishin and Dainius Zubrus talked briefly yesterday, "and we agreed to disagree," said Frank Provenzano, assistant to the general manager. How long will the impasses last? "I can't give you an estimate because [the contracts] should already be done," he said.

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