- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

In all the ruckus surrounding the Washington Capitals' 7-2 win over the New York Rangers on Sunday, one significant milestone was overlooked.
Peter Bondra's goal 16 minutes into the third period was his 20th of the season. That's not a huge total by Bondra's standards, but it gave him at least 20 goals for the 12th straight season with Washington. Only one player in Caps history is even close, Hall of Famer Mike Gartner, who did it in 10 straight seasons.
"He wants to score, he loves to score. That's his bread and butter," coach Bruce Cassidy said yesterday, sitting in his office while 20 players participated in an optional practice at Piney Orchard.
Bondra joined the Caps in 1990 straight from what was then Czechoslovakia. He played in 54 games and scored 12 goals that season. His worst season since was 1999-2000, when he scored just 21 after asking management for a trade.
To Cassidy, Bondra is more than just a scoring machine, though he has twice finished with 52 goals in a season and has won or shared the NHL goal-scoring title twice in his career.
"Sometimes I think he's been pegged the wrong way, that if he's not scoring, he's not playing well," the coach said. "I don't agree with that. I've talked to him about that, that when he's going through bad stretches he can still contribute. We've tried to turn the corner with him, and I think it's worked. He was a double-digit minus player [earlier in the season], and how he's back [to minus-3]. He's made a conscious effort to try to be better away from the puck."
Bondra this season is basically following his usual, streaky pattern. He will go 12 to 15 games without a goal, then score 15 in the next 10. He has said in the past he has no way to predict when a streak will start or end.
"He's an opportunist," Cassidy said. "He needs to have the point shots and the power plays to score. He needs to be on the loose pucks. It's almost like the puck has to find him. With Kip Miller and Jaromir Jagr, you see chemistry. With Peter, I don't think there's that set pattern."
Cassidy recently moved Bondra off Robert Lang's line and onto the Jeff Halpern unit, hoping the different scenery might make better use of the wing's talents.
"He gives us a ton of offense, and he's always got the speed element to chase down pucks," Halpern said. "It's a different style of play, and it makes me a better player. It'll become easier to play with him once I know where he's going to be so I can help him out."
At the moment, that's not a problem. Halpern sees a flash whiz past on his left, and he can be pretty sure it's Bondra preparing to go deep to accept a pass or hound the opposition.
"Peter knows how to play defense, so it's a good fit in that regard," Cassidy said of breaking up Halpern's checking line and inserting Bondra. "And he brings offense to the line, which is not a bad thing."
Notes Defenseman Sergei Gonchar, with two goals and six assists in four games, was a runner-up for player of the week honors in the NHL. …
Right wing Mike Grier, who has played all 51 Caps games this season, will appear in his 500th NHL contest tonight, and center Michael Nylander will appear in his 600th. …
Left wing Steve Konowalchuk, sidelined with a groin problem, completed yesterday's workout and didn't appear hampered at all. …
Peter Ferraro, the right wing who plays for the Caps' top farm team in Portland, Maine, has been named American Hockey League player of the week for recording four goals and five assists in two games over the weekend. … Portland goalie Maxime Ouellet has been added to the Canadian team for next Monday's AHL All-Star Game, replacing Mathieu Garon of Hamilton, who was recalled by Montreal. Ouellet is 16-6-2 with a goals-against average of 2.00 and a save percentage of .942.



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