- The Washington Times - Friday, October 28, 2005

TAMPA, Fla. — NHL tradition says the lineup that produced a victory in the previous game shall not be broken up.

Never mind what tradition dictates: Defenseman Brendan Witt will play for the Washington Capitals tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning even though he wasn’t within 1,000 miles of the Caps when they beat Buffalo on Wednesday night.

“I think you have to rate your players,” coach Glen Hanlon said yesterday after practice. “I mean, if we won last night and Alex Ovechkin had the flu and didn’t play, do you really think I’d hold him out tomorrow night? I like tradition, but I don’t think you sit out your better players.”

Witt left Washington after Saturday night’s debacle against Carolina to join his family at their Juniper Beach, Fla., home and prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Wilma. Witt was unable to leave Florida to rejoin the team in Rochester, N.Y., on Wednesday but is scheduled to play tonight.

The eye of the storm passed over Witt’s home, which is just a block inland from the Atlantic Ocean. His area, however, escaped the kind of serious damage suffered by Fort Lauderdale, an hour to the south.

“This is the risk you take when you live in the tropics,” Witt said yesterday. “We went through two [hurricanes] during the lockout, so I know I want to be home with my family when something like this happens. But we’re fine, we came through it fine.”

Witt said he was able to track the storm’s southwest-to-northeast progress across Florida by listening to a portable radio and knew when everything quite suddenly became ghostly calm that the eye was over the neighborhood.

He said major damage was averted in his area because the storm came in from southwest, not the east, and because it came at low tide, minimizing water damage.

“I heard on the radio around 6:30 that it hit south of Naples,” he said. “By 9 we were getting the full blast, Category 2 winds. Then around 10 the eye came across and it was calm for 2, 2 hours. The back end was stronger, but it was all done around 3:30. At 5 o’clock the sun was out. You’d have never known there was a storm other than the damage.”

Witt said there still was no power in his part of the state, but that he has a generator at his home, which is well-stocked with drinking water.

“This morning before I came over here I went to a gas station and waited in line for 2 hours for gas. I had to fill up my wife’s car before I left,” he said. The previous day he waited in line four hours for gas but never reached the head of the line before the station shut down.

He said supermarkets, also without power, are doing a brisk business selling non-perishables and whatever water they can get their hands on but the defenseman said people should have been ready.

“We had lots of time to get ready, four days to stock up,” he said. “I’ve gone through two of them, I know what to expect. They warn people to have 72 hours of supplies but from what I read and saw at the airport, a lot of people weren’t prepared. That’s not FEMA’s fault, people had more than enough time to get ready.”

Notes — Defenseman Nolan Yonkman was demoted to Hershey on Tuesday, a move that wasn’t known until yesterday when he was missing from practice. He was listed as a healthy scratch Wednesday night. … Defenseman Bryan Muir, who played against Buffalo, missed practice yesterday with an unspecified injury, unwittingly creating an opening for Witt.

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