- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2005

The Washington Capitals’ 2005-06 roster will be determined this weekend with preseason home games tonight against Pittsburgh and tomorrow against Philadelphia and a game Sunday night on the road against the Penguins.

That, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean the best or most deserving players will be on that roster; in the new NHL, payroll and waivers may contribute to the final decisions. Still, with Wednesday night’s season-opener nearing, the Caps have plenty of unanswered questions.

If right wing-center Petr Sykora shows up today — and given his track record, that is a big if — from the Czech Republic three weeks late and displays the skills he is reputed to have, the Caps will have to make some unexpected cuts up front. Jeff Halpern and Brian Willsie, who play the right side, are untouchable, and so is the injured Chris Clark.

That would leave, in order of camp performance, Matt Bradley, Miroslav Zalesak and Stephen Peat. If Sykora makes the team, at least two of those three players probably would be cut.

On defense, the situation is even murkier with 10 players in camp. That’s three or four more than desired.

Steve Eminger, Jamie Heward and Brendan Witt have secured spots. Free agents Lawrence Nycholat and Mathieu Biron (who has not played well) have one-way contracts, which means NHL paydays no matter where they play. Shaone Morrisonn and Nolan Yonkman, who both are playing decently coming off injuries, would have to clear waivers if the Caps tried to send them down, and it’s unlikely either would do so.

That leaves rookie Mike Green, who has had an excellent camp and is more deserving of a roster spot than some others, plus Jakub Cutta and Bryan Muir, who have been average.

Washington would like to stay at the 20-player minimum, but that may not be possible if it has to protect some players from waivers.

While it may hurt financially (at $5 million, former Washington star Sergei Gonchar by himself probably will make more than the entire Caps defense), the smart thing might be for the team to send some players with one-way deals down to Hershey while playing and protecting promising players who would not clear waivers.

The Caps recalled six forwards — Chris Bourque, Eric Fehr, Robin Gomez, Brooks Laich, Dave Steckel and Jakub Klepis — from Hershey to help them through the weekend. NHL rules do not permit players to play three straight nights.

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