Back With Caps, Zednik Seeks Return to Form
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
HERSHEY, Pa., Sept. 25 -- Ten days into training camp, this much about Richard Zednik is certain: He's still awfully fast.
But until the regular season gets under way, it's unclear which Zednik is going to show up for the Washington Capitals on game days: the feisty right wing who amassed 50 points for the Montreal Canadiens in both 2002-03 and 2003-04, or the enigmatic one who managed only 30 points last season, then requested a trade because his playing time had diminished.
Coach Glen Hanlon said Monday he's confident the Capitals have the Zednik from a few years ago.
"He's going to get an opportunity here to score," Hanlon said at Giant Center, where the Capitals practiced before heading to Philadelphia on Tuesday for a preseason game against the Flyers. "He's going to be put in all offensive situations. So it's pretty much a given that those [50-point seasons] will be revisited."
Zednik will play on the revamped power-play unit with Alex Ovechkin, Dainius Zubrus, Alexander Semin and Brian Pothier. He also will skate in four-on-four situations, meaning the 30-year-old's playing time figures to increase dramatically from the 15 minutes 46 seconds he averaged in Montreal a season ago.
But perhaps more significantly, Zednik is in the mix, along with Semin and Chris Clark, to earn a spot on the top forward line next to Ovechkin, a left wing, and Zubrus, a center. Zednik would make the most sense in that role -- Semin prefers playing left wing and Clark is more suited for a checking-line job -- but, as Hanlon has said, chemistry is a funny thing.
Hanlon has deflected all inquiries about his line combinations, insisting that he's still tinkering, searching for players who "click."
"You have to balance everything out," Hanlon said. "We'll take a look at [everything]. We still haven't put together our lines. But starting [Tuesday], you'll probably get a better idea."
Zednik was not shy about voicing his preference.
"I would love to play on that line," said Zednik, who played for the Capitals from 1995 to 2001 and was reacquired from the Canadiens in July for a third-round draft pick. "Dainius is a great centerman, and obviously Alex is a great player, too. But we'll see."
Ovechkin also has been intrigued by the possibility of playing with Zednik full time.
"I like play[ing] with him," Ovechkin said. "He's a good player; he shoot the puck good and he gives me lot of passes. Right now, coach is just looking for best lines."
But no matter where he lines up, Zednik is just happy to be out of Montreal, where he did not get along with General Manager Bob Gainey, who took over behind the bench in January.
"It's great to not have to think about all that other stuff and just focus on hockey," Zednik said. "Here, there are a lot of young guys. We are rebuilding, but it's a team on the rise."
Capitals Notes: Forwards Peter Vandermeer and Chad Wiseman were reassigned to Hershey of the American Hockey League. Their departure leaves the Capitals with 27 players in training camp. Zubrus and defenseman Jamie Heward, still recovering from offseason surgery, have not been cleared for game action. But Hanlon said Heward is getting close and might suit up against the Flyers. Hanlon said he hopes Zubrus will play Friday against the Flyers or Sunday against Carolina. . . . The Flyers game will be broadcast live and free of charge on http:/