- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2003

The Washington Capitals yesterday called up goaltender Maxime Ouellet from their American Hockey League affiliate in Portland, Maine. The promotion comes as Washington starter Olie Kolzig continues to struggle this season.

The season is more than one-third old, the Caps are firmly entrenched in last place overall, they already have fired one coach and the problems remain.

“Ouellet has played very well and earned an opportunity,” general manager George McPhee said yesterday. “And he may get that opportunity in one of these [next] two games.”

The Caps are at Atlanta tomorrow night and at Florida Wednesday night.

“Olie wasn’t going to start both those games,” McPhee said, denying the timing of the Ouellet call-up was a direct reflection on Kolzig’s poor play of late. “We were going to give Max a game anyway and he’s going to get one of them.”

Kolzig’s statistics are some of the worst he has posted since he took over from starter Bill Ranford in the opener of the 1997-98 campaign, a season where he led the team to the Stanley Cup finals. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2000 when he posted a record of 41-20-11.

The 33-year-old has been shelled in his last two outings, allowing five goals each to Boston and Detroit while going 1-1 for Hanlon, a former goaltender, who was named coach Wednesday.

Kolzig is 8-18-1 with a goals-against of 3.25 and a save percentage of .886. His save percentage has been below .900 since the end of the first week of the season and bottomed out at .857 close to the end of October.

Kolzig, however, hasn’t had much help this season. The team sacrificed experienced defense in an effort to trim payroll, It didn’t re-sign veteran Ken Klee and watched Calle Johansson opt for retirement when it was fairly common knowledge the team leader wanted to return for another season if he could clear up his philosophical differences with then-coach Bruce Cassidy.

Up front the goaltender has received little help even from veterans on the team. Five forwards have minus defensive ratings in double digits while nine, who have played at least two-thirds of the 30 games so far, have scored three or fewer goals.

Ouellet, 22, was obtained from Philadelphia along with three draft picks on March 19, 2002, for center Adam Oates. The goalie appeared in two NHL games for the Flyers, going 0-1-0 with a GAA of 2.37.

Ouellet played in 21 games for Portland this season with a record of 6-14-1, a GAA of 2.39 and a save percentage of .918. He has shut out three opponents.

The goalie’s record is deceiving because his Pirates, like the Caps, are going through a scoring drought. Portland’s 50 goals are the fewest of any AHL team while only two teams have allowed fewer than the 62 goals the Pirates have.

To make room on the roster, the club is returning Rastislav Stana to the Pirates. He was called up on Nov.4 when Sebastien Charpentier could no longer be the back-up after injuring his hip. Charpentier is still on injured reserve.

Stana, 23, played in five games with the Caps, posting a record of 1-1 with a GAA of 2.78. The Slovak was drafted by the Caps in 1998, the 193rd player picked.

Notes — Two Caps prospects playing junior, right wing Eric Fehr, 18, and goaltender Maxime Daigneault, 19, were released yesterday from the Canadian national junior team tryout camp. Fehr plays in Brandon, Manitoba, while Daigneault plays in Val-d’Or, Quebec.

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