- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 4, 2003

With first-line center Michael Nylander out four to six weeks with a broken right leg, the Washington Capitals claimed a pair of fringe NHL forwards in yesterday’s waiver draft.

The moves could give the Caps the necessary depth up front to make a trade for a proven defenseman to bolster an inexperienced blue line that was the big question entering training camp three weeks ago and remains so with the season starting in five days.

“We’ve got a lot of depth at forward, but there was no risk in claiming them because they’re on two-way deals,” general manager George McPhee said of right wing Brian Willsie and left wing Denis Hamel. “If it doesn’t work out, we can just send them down [to Portland of the AHL]. We thought we’d take a look at them tomorrow [in the preseason finale at Carolina] and see how they measure up to the players we have.”

Willsie, 26, was claimed from Colorado, for which he had seven goals and eight assists in 69 games over parts of the past three seasons. McPhee said the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder is versatile and has seen some action on the power play.

Hamel, 25, was claimed from Ottawa after producing 13 goals and nine assists in 130 games for Buffalo over parts of the past four seasons. McPhee said the 6-2, 200-pounder is more of a mucker but with some skill.

The Senators declined the waiver fee, picking center Glen Metropolit off Washington’s waiver list. Metropolit, who had spent parts of the past four years with the Caps, wasn’t invited to training camp last month.

McPhee had hoped to claim a defenseman but Ottawa’s burly Wade Brookbank was grabbed by Nashville before Washington had a chance to make a pick.

Meanwhile, with only center Brian Sutherby scratched among the regular forwards, Caps coach Bruce Cassidy juggled his lines to adjust for Nylander’s absence in last night’s 3-2 victory over Carolina in the home preseason finale at MCI Center.

Kip Miller and Jeff Halpern skated with Jaromir Jagr on the first line. Dainius Zubrus moved back to center between Steve Konowalchuk and Peter Bondra. Robert Lang, whose third goal in two games at 8:20 of the second period was the game-winner, was flanked by Mike Grier and rookie Alex Semin. Rookie Boyd Gordon centered Matt Pettinger and Stephen Peat on the fourth line.

The defense pairings were Brendan Witt and rookie Steve Eminger, Sergei Gonchar and Joel Kwiatkowski and Jason Doig and Josef Boumedienne. Witt, Eminger, Grier and Zubrus formed the first penalty-killing unit with Doig, Kwiatkowski, Halpern and Bondra the second.

Both units were very effective in killing a double-minor to Konowalchuk at 18:44 of the first period. Gonchar, Jagr, Halpern, Grier and Miller were on the first power-play with Gonchar (eventually replaced by Boumedienne) on the second unit with Bondra, Lang, Zubrus and Semin.

Goalie Olie Kolzig stopped Carolina’s first 20 shots in his last tuneup for the regular season before Marty Murray scored on the power play with 2:51 left after Bondra had made it 2-0 with his fourth goal of preseason. Lang scored from his knees 26 seconds after Murray’s goal for his second straight 2-goal game to make it 3-1, but Eric Staal beat Kolzig with five seconds remaining after the Hurricanes had pulled goalie Kevin Weekes.

Notes — In addition to Nylander, Sutherby, enforcer Alex Henry (concussion) and defenseman John Gruden (groin), the Caps scratched defensemen Rick Berry, J.F. Fortin and Nolan Yonkman. Gruden, the only player on the roster available, wasn’t claimed in the waiver draft. …

The Caps (3-3-1) haven’t had a winning preseason since 1999. They finished with 102 points that season, their most in the past 17 years. …

Washington has had six players combine for eight multi-point games this preseason. Bondra and Zubrus have done so twice. Gruden, Halpern, Jagr and Lang once apiece. Of the 37 Caps to get on the ice this preseason, only Jagr and Kwiatkowski have played in as many as six.

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