- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

When the Washington Capitals play host to Los Angeles tomorrow night, the Caps won't be the same team the Kings were scouting on videotape.
Among the missing, in all likelihood, will be leading scorer Jaromir Jagr, who is out with a cracked wrist bone; left wing Kip Miller, Jagr's set-up man who has missed five games with a bruised hand after being slashed Feb.22 against Detroit; and Brendan Witt, one of the club's most physical defensemen, out with sore ribs.
"They don't look good for the weekend," said coach Bruce Cassidy, also including Sunday night's home game against Colorado.
Jagr and Miller make up two-thirds of the first line, but they were replaced in Monday night's 2-1 victory over Philadelphia by Josh Green on the left and Dainius Zubrus on the right, with Robert Lang at center as usual.
That probably will change tomorrow night. Cassidy said he plans to plug in newcomer Sergei Berezin at left wing. Berezin was obtained from Chicago on Tuesday minutes before the trading deadline. The wing had 18 goals and 31 points for the Blackhawks this season and has averaged about 25 for most of his NHL career.
"He's a goal-scorer, a veteran guy and he can kill penalties," said Cassidy. "It does give you another guy who can score at this level on a regular basis. He's a pretty dynamic player, very fast. I don't know if you ever have enough goal-scorers, and if we add one more to the mix, well, it would be a nice fit for us. You never know how long Miller and Jags will be out."
Miller was on the ice with Jagr 45 minutes earlier than the rest of the team, both wearing red shirts indicating no contact. Miller lasted through the regular practice as well, but Jagr did not.
"We've got a couple days before a game; it feels a little better each day," said Miller, who wouldn't make a prediction on his return.
"Obviously, [Jagrs] not ready to go through a full practice," Cassidy said. "I was told he probably wouldn't play this weekend, but I don't want to rule it out. You want a guy to go through a full practice before you put him in the lineup, especially him. When he's ready, he goes in."
Tentatively scheduled to take Witt's place alongside Calle Johansson is J.F. Fortin, the budding star of last season who has spent much of this year in the doghouse. He has been to the minors twice for conditioning assignments and hasn't played in the NHL since Dec.30.
"He's going to have to be [in shape], that's just the way it is," Cassidy said. "We knew the day would come when we'd need both [Fortin and Rick Berry]. Rick's been in and did a good job. J.F. has worked hard. I hope he shakes off the rust in a hurry because you don't have a lot of time to work your way back into the lineup. It's an opportunity he's got to look at it that way. Go out and just keep it simple until he gets his legs back under him."
The Caps last season tried to work a number of youngsters into the lineup with limited success. Some came to training camp last fall apparently feeling jobs were secure, but that was not the case. Some, including left wing Matt Pettinger and defenseman Nolan Yonkman, ended up in the minors for the season, and Fortin has split time there.
"I worked hard for the past two months, so if he has to put me in there, I'll be ready," Fortin said. "I've been waiting for this for the last two months. My last game, I think it was a month and a half ago in Portland. When you're not in the lineup every night, you don't feel like you're really a part of the team, and that's tough. This feels good."
Fortin has spent nearly a month on injured reserve, but roster limits were lifted once the trade deadline passed. Instead, each team is limited to four recalls between now and the end of the first round of the playoffs.

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