By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 16, 2005
EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Dec. 15 -- Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee said there is "no chance" the team was looking to trade goaltender Olie Kolzig, and confirmed that injured left wing Jeff Friesen could be out a minimum of six more weeks after undergoing surgery last week.
Friesen, a veteran the Capitals acquired during training camp in the hopes he would be among their scoring leaders, has been out since Nov. 6 and has missed the past 15 games. The injury was originally thought to be a pulled groin muscle, but it turned out to be a sports hernia, which is a weakening of the abdominal wall. He is rehabilitating in the Washington area and probably won't return to the lineup until after the Olympic break in February.
"Unfortunately there have been a lot of injuries like that around the league this year," McPhee said during the first intermission of the Capitals' 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night. "A lot of teams have experienced it. Jeff's a good player. He probably could have scored 30 goals this season. We're happy to have him, just disappointed he got injured."
"He wants to be out there," McPhee added. "We've told him to take your time, do it right. And you'll play when you are ready."
Several teams, Vancouver in particular, are in the market for a No. 1 goaltender. The Canucks' Dan Cloutier tore a knee ligament and could miss the rest of the season, leading to speculation in Canada about who the team might seek to replace him. Kolzig's name has surfaced in several reports as a possible target.
Asked whether a Kolzig deal was in the works, McPhee said, "No chance."
McPhee's comment came one week after Kolzig said he was "optimistic" about finishing his career in Washington. Kolzig, 35, who has often been the Capitals' best player this season, is in the final year of a five-year contract that pays him $4.94 million this season.
Kolzig's 24 saves were key in the Capitals' victory over the Kings, their third road win of the season and second in nine games. Checking line center Brian Sutherby scored the tying goal midway through the third period and defenseman Jamie Heward scored the game-winner on the power play with 63 seconds remaining. Washington's two power-play goals against the Kings marked the first time in nearly six weeks the special teams unit tallied more than one in a game. McPhee acknowledged the team is looking to add more skill players.
"We're looking to improve the team any way we can, hopefully that's through our organization," McPhee said. "But if there's something else we can add that makes sense we'll do it. It has to be the right talent, the right person, the right character at the right price. If a good player is available, we'll be involved."
McPhee spoke optimistically about the Capitals' attendance at MCI Center. The team's average of 12,803 tickets distributed per game ranks last in the league. McPhee said he hopes recent crowds -- the team announced an attendance figure of 15,812 for the game against the New York Rangers game on Dec. 3 and a sellout of 18,277 against Detroit last Friday -- are an indication of an upward trend.
"Historically, we've drawn much better once we get into January when football is over and people are focusing on hockey," McPhee said. "We like some of the crowds we've drawn recently. As we improve, we expect the crowds to improve."