- The Washington Times - Friday, October 17, 2003

Seen and heard last night at American Airlines Arena in Dallas

WELCOME BACK — The Caps welcomed back regulars Brendan Witt and Mike Grier. Witt returned after missing the previous two games after being slammed into the boards face-first during last Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Atlanta. Witt, Washington’s top defense-minded defenseman averaged 72 games the past four seasons and is even more valuable this year to a blue line corps minus longtime stalwarts Calle Johansson and Ken Klee.

Right wing Grier was suspended for Tuesday’s 5-1 loss in Montreal after elbowing Toronto’s Robert Reichel into the boards face-first during Monday’s 2-2 tie. The loss to the Canadiens was the first game Grier had missed since being acquired from Edmonton on the eve of last season.

Grier’s absence in Montreal left defenseman Sergei Gonchar and centers Jeff Halpern and Robert Lang as the only players to skate in all 87 of Washington’s games the last two seasons. Since last year was Lang’s first in Washington and Halpern missed the final 34 games of 2001-2002 following knee surgery, Gonchar is the Caps’ ironman with a streak of 93 consecutive games dating to April 3, 2002.

SEEING STARS — That’s what the Caps are used to in Dallas. Since the Minnesota North Stars became the Dallas Stars in 1993, the Caps were 2-7 in the Lone Star State. Including the games in Washington, the Caps’ record against Dallas was 4-12-1. The good news was that the Caps were 1-1 in American Airlines Arena, which became the Stars’ home in the fall of 2001.

NO THANKS, OLD BUDDY — Stars coach Dave Tippett, whose team clobbered Washington 6-1 and 5-2 in his debut season of 2002-2003, played in 91 games for the Caps from 1990 to 1992. Right wing Peter Bondra and left wing Steve Konowalchuk are the only remaining Caps from Tippett’s days in Washington.

RECALLED — With some of their young defensemen struggling, the Caps recalled defenseman Nolan Yonkman from Portland of the AHL. Yonkman, Washington’s second pick in the 1999 draft, had no points, two penalty minutes and a plus-1 defensive rating in three games for the Pirates. Yonkman’s 2002-03 season was ruined by injuries, but at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds he can add a much needed physical element to Washington’s line.

David Elfin

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