- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Coach Glen Hanlon knew there would be some exhaustion after the Washington Capitals returned from the West Coast.

So when he was putting together his line combinations for Sunday’s game against Florida, it wasn’t meant to confuse the Panthers or to punish players who weren’t contributing. He was just trying to determine which players survived the long trip in the best physical shape.

“I was watching for who looked tired because that’s a tough turnaround for us, coming back from California where we played two tough games,” Hanlon said yesterday. “Brian Sutherby’s line stayed intact because they had the most jump and were getting the most accomplished.”

But it was mix and match for the other three forward lines, made tougher because right wing Eric Fehr was making his NHL debut and was unfamiliar with the usual routines.

Brooks Laich, usually a center or left wing on the fourth line, did the most moving around. He played his normal shift, plus filled in for Chris Clark on the right side of the first line with Dainius Zubrus and Alex Ovechkin. At times Brian Willsie also was spotted with the first unit.

“It wasn’t so much of a reward for doing things right; it was that I was trying to win the game,” said Hanlon, whose team got off a club-record 55 shots on goal but lost 3-2. “Brooks was doing a real good job, so I wanted to get him some more ice time. Basically, you just go with the players you think will get the job done.”

Another reason for the shifting lines was that Ben Clymer, a left wing on the successful Sutherby unit, blocked a shot in practice, and it was uncertain whether he would play. Clymer went all the way but not with his usual force.

“It really says something about a player’s worth when you hear in the morning that a guy’s hurt, and you go, ‘Oh, no!’” Hanlon said. “He’s been doing so many good things for us. It was good for me to have a little scare because you can tell about how I talk about him what he means to our team. I was devastated just thinking we’d play a game without him.”

Hanlon thought Fehr “played well. We want our players to play a lot; there’s no use in Eric coming up here and playing seven minutes [a game]. But it was good for him to come in, play a game and see where he needs to improve. Sometimes the NHL’s a real good wakeup call for young kids.”

The annual holiday trade hiatus is in effect through Dec. 27. Players can be moved within an organization in emergencies, but there can be no trades.



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