Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Washington Capitals coach Glen Hanlon has given two of his centers new roles but went to great pains yesterday to ensure the moves were not construed as a promotion or demotion.

Jakub Klepis, a native of the Czech Republic, has been moved to the second line, centering Russian Alexander Semin and Slovak Richard Zednik, while Kris Beech has been moved to the third line primarily to reunite him with wing Matt Pettinger.

It is doubtful Beech will lose much if any ice time because he often sees spot duty with other lines as the team’s top faceoff man, an often overlooked but critically important chore.

Beech and Pettinger played together in 1999-2000 with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League and played most of preseason on the same line until Pettinger was injured in the next-to-last game.

“I like the chemistry between Pettinger and Beech,” Hanlon said. “I thought Beech played very, very well in the last game.”

However, Hanlon switched centers on a hunch to take advantage of Klepis’ speed. He also wants to see whether the chemistry that was developing between Klepis and Zednik in training camp is still there.

Pettinger, who is recovering from a bad shoulder bruise, probably will come off injured reserve in time for tomorrow’s game at Colorado if all goes well in today’s practice. He skated yesterday’s drills on a line for the first time in weeks.

“It’s just been boring, skating by yourself, that kind of thing,” Pettinger said of his rehab period. “It’s frustrating. I felt good in preseason, coming off last year [20 goals]. I felt fresh [with a] young team, high expectations. Now it’s kind of back to square one.”

Fully powered unit

Hanlon finally has given in and put most of the offensive arsenal on the same unit, something he wanted to avoid because it is easier for opponents to mount a defense against one line as opposed to several.

Semin, Dainius Zubrus, Zednik, Alex Ovechkin and defenseman Brian Pothier are now on the same power-play unit. The Caps scored on two of their three power-play chances in a 6-4 loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday night.

Pothier, obviously, will be on one point with either Semin or Ovechkin on the other and Zednik and Zubrus down low. Whichever forward is not on the point will act as the quarterback on the half boards.

There is no doubt it will be potent, but there are downsides. First, Pothier has to be especially vigilant to watch for openings like the one that resulted in Tampa Bay’s short-handed goal Saturday night. Another is there isn’t much offensive might left for a second power-play unit. And still another: What happens when the power-play ends and there are only line fragments left to fill the void while the shooters catch their breath?

“That first group, there’s pressure on them to get it done so you’ll likely see them on the ice a lot longer, too,” Hanlon said. “We’ll need to get our goals from that group.”

Flyers promote Berube

Craig Berube, who played in 419 games over two stints with the Caps, has been promoted to assistant coach with Philadelphia in wake of the shakeup there. Former Caps coach Terry Murray is the other assistant. Berube had just been named coach of the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate.

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