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Olie Kolzig returns to Capitals as associate goalie coach

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More than three years since he last protected the Washington Capitals’ net, Olie Kolzig has rejoined the organization as associate goaltender coach.

The Capitals named Kolzig to their coaching staff Thursday and also announced that Dave Prior will resume the role he held for 12 years as the team’s chief goaltender coach. The duo worked together for 11 years during Kolzig’s playing career and they will now jointly shape the development of Washington’s group of young netminders.

“I’m ecstatic to finally come back to, basically, the place I call home,” Kolzig said during a conference call with reporters. “I thought there’s just not a better person that I want to work with and an organization that I want get back with.”

Prior will handle the daily duties at the NHL level as chief goaltending coach, while Kolzig will be responsible for the development of goaltenders in Washington’s American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League affiliates, the Hershey Bears and South Carolina Stingrays, in addition to working with the Capitals.

Prior was part of the hockey operations staff as a goaltender development coach during the 2010-11 season. When Arturs Irbe elected to not return to the Capitals, Prior expressed interest in his old job.

“There were some things that he wanted to do, and [he] was ready to assume that role again,” General Manager George McPhee said. “He did a real good job for us there before. So that worked in terms of the change, and then finding someone else to bring in and work with Dave — first choice was Olie.”

Prior contacted Kolzig, his longtime student and close friend, about returning to the Capitals just as the 1999-2000 Vezina Trophy winner was contemplating getting involved with the NHL again.

After taking time away from the game following his retirement in 2009, Kolzig wanted to get back to hockey and started mentoring the goaltenders on the Tri-City Americans, a Western Hockey League junior team in Washington state of which he is co-owner. Kolzig didn’t necessarily plan on becoming a coach, but he said his work with young players became fulfilling and he didn’t hesitate when presented with the chance to work with Prior.

“Dave is probably the biggest reason why I enjoyed the success that I had in the NHL,” Kolzig said. “He was able to get me on track on a more consistent basis.”

It’s a welcome reunion for the Capitals and Kolzig, who has put his unceremonious departure from Washington as a free agent in 2008 behind him. Kolzig became the odd man out late that season when the Capitals acquired Cristobal Huet at the trade deadline, and he did not play a game in the postseason. When Washington was eliminated in the first round by Philadelphia, Kolzig removed his nameplate from his locker stall and later announced he would part ways with the team that had drafted him.

Kolzig still holds numerous Capitals goaltending records from his 711 games and 16 seasons in Washington, including games played, wins (301), shutouts (35), along with single-season marks of games (73) and wins (41). As time passed, Kolzig gained perspective on his run with the Capitals.

“I’ll say that time heals all wounds,” Kolzig said. “You realize it’s a business and things were handled in a business fashion. . . . It’s time to move on. There’s no ill will toward each other, certainly not on my part.”

Capitals note: The Capitals signed goaltender Dany Sabourin to a one-year, two-way contract. The deal is worth an NHL salary of $525,000 and $125,000 in the minors, but he’s guaranteed $150,000.

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