- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2006

PITTSBURGH — When the Washington Capitals training camp opened it was thought Tomas Fleischmann had the best chance to crack the roster of the players who spent all last season with the Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears.

Add Jakub Klepis’ name to that list.

The Caps and Pittsburgh Penguins took turns marching to the penalty boxes last night en route to a lackluster 5-4 overtime decision for Washington on Matt Bradley’s goal. The sloppy game did allow some players to show their positive sides, while others displayed the shortcomings that will keep them in the minors.

Pittsburgh scored three power play goals and one shorthanded as ineffective special teams continue to sink the Caps. Of the 23 penalties called last night, 13 went against Washington.

Fleischmann and Klepis, both 21-year-olds from the Czech Republic, came to the Caps as a result of the great 2003-04 salary slash. Klepis arrived from Buffalo for Mike Grier. Fleischmann came from Detroit for Robert Lang.

Last night the two were easily the best Washington skaters in the game, with perhaps the better part of the roster left at home. Nonetheless, they stood out and showed the potential to spark Washington’s lineup.

Fleischmann is a left wing who may be asked to experiment some on the other side, where the Caps are not as deep. He had 30 goals and 66 points during the regular season for the Bears in the American Hockey League, plus 11 goals and 32 points in 20 playoff games. He also played 14 games for Washington.

Klepis, a center, also can also play wing. He appeared in 25 Washington games but had 11 goals and 31 points for Hershey and another eight points in the playoffs.

So the question for the Caps is, are those two ready and if so where should they play? Logic says the makeup for the first two lines is virtually complete if Kris Beech lands the second line center spot, and there are plenty of candidates for the checking unit.

That basically leaves one line to be formed with multiple contenders, with Fleischmann and Klepis among the leaders trying to win NHL jobs. Fleischmann scored last night and Klepis assisted on that goal to better their chances. Those chances got even better later when Klepis scored and Fleischmann got the assist.

While they played well, it was not a strong overall performance by the team. The number of penalties continues to rise despite warnings that the club is headed for the same last-place finish as last season if the players continue to pack the penalty box.

Along with Fleischmann, Quintin Laing and Matt Pettinger scored for Washington, and former Caps defenseman Sergei Gonchar had a pair of power play goals for the Penguins, his third and fourth goals of preseason.

Notes — Donald Brashear, a free agent policeman, started to earn his pay when he went after a Penguin who dumped Alexander Semin head-first into the boards. All he got for his troubles was a double-minor. …

The Caps reduced their training camp roster to 36 when they sent goalie Maxime Daigneault and wing Chris Bourque to Hershey. Bourque spent last season with the Bears, but this is a promotion for Daigneault, who spent last season with South Carolina in the ECHL. …

Washington plays New Jersey at 5 p.m. tomorrow at Giant Center in Hershey and will practice for two days in the Pennsylvania city before playing the Flyers in Philadelphia on Tuesday. The Washington roster should be at less than 30 players by the time the team leaves Hershey. …

Star center Sidney Crosby was a healthy scratch for the Penguins last night, not welcome news for the Pittsburgh faithful. Medical scratches were right wing Mark Recchi (broken cheekbone) and rookie sensation Evgeni Malkin (dislocated left shoulder). The Russian center will be examined next week to determine how long he will be out.

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