- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In 1982, Washington Capitals rookie Scott Stevens was on the ice for about 45 seconds on the first day of training camp when he got into his first scrap. The defenseman, taken fifth overall, was battling somebody — trying unsuccessfully to use his fists to make the roster. Stevens, as it turned out, didn’t need his fists to last 20-plus years.

A minor dust-up yesterday was the first altercation of the Caps’ current camp, veteran center Brian Sutherby vs. free agent left wing Chad Wiseman. The pair was separated in seconds.

But their stock rose immediately in the eyes of those who pick teams. It wasn’t because they fought, but because they were willing to stand up for themselves and probably would stand up for a teammate, as Sutherby has in the past even though that is not his calling.

“I think all coaches enjoy feistiness, competitiveness,” coach Glen Hanlon said shortly before the training camp roster was trimmed from 49 to 38. “I don’t have to [tell the players] that I want competitiveness because that’s a given, it was accomplished. You come here, you’re a competitive person, you work hard. We’re beyond [teaching competitiveness], now we’re about improving in other areas. We’ve set the bar as high as any team in the NHL.”

Hanlon will get a chance to see today how far his team has come when it faces Tampa Bay at 7 p.m. at Verizon Center. The teams split eight games last season, three of them ending in shootouts while a fourth was decided in overtime.

Washington will put a veteran lineup on the floor, including goalie Olie Kolzig — scheduled to play the entire game — and Calder Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin, who had five goals and five assists against the Lightning last season.

Sutherby and Richard Zednik — who returns to the Caps after five seasons in Montreal — will complete the first line. Matt Bradley, Rico Feta and Eric Fehr are a second line. Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Beech and Matt Pettinger will comprise a third with Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Donald Brashear on the final unit.

Defensively, Shaone Morrisonn and Brian Pothier make up one pair, Jeff Schultz and Mike Green comprise a second and Steve Eminger and Ben Clymer are the third. Maxime Daigneault will back up Kolzig.

Clymer’s performance will be watched closely as coaches try to decide whether to keep him on defense or to put him back on left wing. So far, he has done well going back to the position he played since he started in the sport. If he makes it on defense, that opens a spot for somebody up front.

Ironically, it was Tampa Bay — the team he played for when he won a Stanley Cup in 2004 — that moved him from wing to defense.

Assigned to Hershey of the American Hockey League yesterday were defensemen Sasha Pokulok and Trevor Byrne, goalie Daren Machesney and forwards Matt Stefanishion, Stephen Werner, Louis Robitaille and Joey Tenute. Some of those individuals may end up with the Caps ECHL affiliate in Charleston, S.C.

Returned to their junior teams were goalie Michal Neuvirth, Plymouth, Mich., Ontario Hockey League; right wing Francois Bouchard, Baie Comeau, Quebec; defenseman Patrick McNeill, Saginaw, Mich., OHL; and left wing Oskar Osala, Mississauga, Ont., OHL.

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