- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2004

When Washington traded Anson Carter to Boston in 1997, he was a promising 22-year-old rookie on a struggling veteran-laden team.

Nearly seven years later, Carter has returned, and the situation is different for both him and the Capitals. Calling Washington a struggling team would be an understatement; the Caps have the second fewest standings points in the NHL.

And instead of being among the youngest players, Carter has become one of the Caps’ elder statesmen at 29. He is being counted on to pick up much of the load from five-time NHL scoring champion Jaromir Jagr, who he replaced in a trade with the New York Rangers.

Carter has averaged 22 goals and 49 points in his six full seasons. All-Star center Robert Lang and franchise career scoring leader Peter Bondra are the only other Washington forwards who have reached those totals.

“I’ve been traded for big names before, so I don’t really look at it that way,” said Carter, who was involved in previous swaps for talents like Adam Oates, Rick Tocchet, Bill Guerin and Bill Ranford. “And I had a pretty good idea of what was coming this time because I have the same agent [J.P. Barry] as Jagr. Getting traded is never easy, but being back in familiar surroundings is comforting. [Brendan] Witt, Olie [Kolzig] and Bondra are still here, and I played with Lang in Boston and [Mike] Grier in Edmonton. That helps. I’m just going to try to fit in with the guys and help them win.”

Carter didn’t do that in his debut for the 2004 Caps, taking just one shot on goal — and a vicious one head-first into the boards courtesy of an illegal hit by Michal Handzus. Plus, he was on the ice for two of Philadelphia’s goals in Sunday’s 4-1 loss. But coach Glen Hanlon likes what he sees from the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Toronto native.

“Anson has been around long enough that he knows we don’t expect him to replace Jags,” said Hanlon, who’s unsure whether he’s going to play Carter with Lang and Jeff Halpern or with Dainius Zubrus and Bates Battaglia when the Caps visit the Rangers tomorrow. “They’re very different players. Anson just has to be who he is. He plays both ends of the ice. He has a bit of a [nasty] edge to his game. And he can score 25 to 30 goals.”

Carter averaged 27 goals in 2002 and 2003, but he had just 10 for New York this year, in part because he was playing an average of 31/2 fewer minutes a night. Carter also was relegated to the point on the power play and given the task of putting the puck on net for big bodies Mark Messier, Eric Lindros and Petr Nedved and sniper Alex Kovalev to knock home.

“It was frustrating at times in New York,” Carter said. “I’m looking forward to getting more opportunities to score here. This team needs me to do that more.”

That’s especially true on the once-elite power play — it was 0-5 against the Flyers with just five shots — as it tries to re-establish chemistry without the puck wizardry and magnetism of Jagr and the slap shots and sweet passes of Sergei Gonchar, the NHL’s top scoring defenseman who is out two-to-four weeks with a separated left shoulder.

Grier, who has developed into perhaps the team leader in just his second season in Washington, said his former Oilers teammate can also help the Caps — increasingly younger in the wake of the trades of Jagr and former captain Steve Konowalchuk and the injuries to Gonchar and center Michael Nylander — in the dressing room.

“It’s funny,” Carter acknowledged with a smile. “I left here as a young buck, which I still was in some ways with the Rangers, and now I’m back as a grizzled veteran.”

Note — Josef Boumedienne, whose last-minute bout of stomach sickness left the Caps with just five defensemen against the Flyers, was still ill yesterday and couldn’t skate. Hanlon said if Boumedienne is unable to practice today, Washington will recall a defenseman from its Portland (Maine) farm team.

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