Wednesday, October 5, 2005

The Washington Capitals made a move yesterday to shore up their suddenly porous backup goaltending position and got down to the 23-man roster limit by shipping four players to Hershey in the American Hockey League and placing two more on injured reserve.

Washington claimed goalie Brent Johnson, 28, off Vancouver waivers. That left the Caps with three goalies, almost always an unworkable situation. Besides Johnson, the Caps have Olie Kolzig and Maxime Ouellet.

The Caps had to get Johnson (77-53-13, 2.28 goals-against) in a hurry because Ouellet, once touted as Kolzig’s heir apparent, suddenly has gone very cold. He had a 1-3 preseason record with a goals-against of 4.93 and a woeful saves percentage of .835, allowing 18 goals in fewer than 220 minutes.

Ouellet went into last season at Portland, Maine, with great potential but suddenly had problems, especially with rebounds. His problems continued this fall.

Johnson had a great early run with St. Louis a few years ago but also suddenly went cold. He was 1-1 with an overtime loss with Vancouver during training camp with a GAA of 2.92 and a saves percentage of .904.

The Caps placed three players on waivers Monday afternoon, wing Miroslav Zalesak and defensemen Jakub Cutta and Lawrence Nycholat. All three cleared and were assigned to Hershey, but it was not known whether Zalesak would report. He reportedly has a clause in his contract allowing him to return to Europe if he doesn’t make the NHL roster.

Also sent to Hershey was rookie defenseman Mike Green, who without question played well enough to make the roster. But he is not subject to waivers so he can’t be claimed, and as a rookie he automatically is on a two-way contract, meaning low pay.

Some others — Mathieu Biron and Nolan Yonkman, for instance — either have one-way contracts, making it too costly to send them down, or might be subject to waiver claims.

Placed on injured reserve were wing Chris Clark (ribs) and defenseman Ivan Majesky (knee). However, general manager George McPhee said two weeks ago it was not necessary to protect Majesky or to place him on the payroll because he had failed his physical.

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