The unloved Boston Bruins are Capital Centre guests tonight at 7:30 and the Washington Capitals, winless in 18 previous meetings, used various methods yesterday to prepare themselves for a supreme effort.
Bob Sirois, who was officially ranked No 1 in the NHL in the first-half plus-minus statistics, used an X-ray machine to determine that his bruised hip and back were fit for action.
Former Bruin Dave Forbes and Gord Lane engaged in a heated wrestling match on the Fort Dupont ice for 30 minutes after practice, before coach Tom McVie directed them to "save something for tomorrow."
McVie himself abandoned his car in a traffic jam near Evans Junior High and ran the remaining two miles to Fort Dupont to prevent a first-time tardiness at practice. He overruled players who claimed he arrived one minute after the specified 9 a.m.
Center Rick Bragnalo accepted teammates' congratulations.Some were still pleased at the way the tough little guy accepted a game misconduct to rescue teammate Larry Bolonchuk from the fist of Colorado's Mike Christie Wednesday night. Others were gleeful at learning that Bragnalo had driven off from a traffic light as McVie approached his car door, seeking a ride for the final mile.
"I saw Brags at the light and cut through the traffic, but just as I got there he took off," McVie said.
The remaining mile was mostly uphill, but McVie accepted Bragnalo's explanation that he had not realized the coach was hitchiking.
Sirois banged an elbow on the ice in Tuesday's NHL All-Star Game, then was racked up by Colorado's Dennis Owchar Wednesday, jarring himself as he landed. The X-rays ended the fear of severe damage.
"It's sore, but it's the first 40 games of the season with a plus 22.2 percent figure in the NHL's new plus-minus formula, which compares a player's presence on ice for his team's total equal-strength goals, for and against. Sirois was a participant in half of Washington's goals, only 27.8 percent of those scored by the opposition.
Th Bruins whipped the Capitals, 4-1, in Boston a week ago, after which coach Don Cherry made some deprecating remarks about the Capitals, literally laughing at Washington's lack of first-period shots (1) and failure ever to beat the Bruins.
Cherry, according to an NHL spokesman, is "being investigated by the president (John Ziegler)" for attempting to attack referee Ron Wicks after the second period of the Washington game and for making general, accusations about officials affecting the score after the Bruins lost ot Cleveland Sunday.
The Capitals were most upset by Cherry's remarks in Boston and promised to a man to try to make him swallow them tonight. The realize, of course, that they are not playing against Cherry, but against an excellent, hard-working hockey team.
"To say taht a team in last place is bad is easy to say," Charron said. "If the man wants to make quotes like that, it's his privilege. It should motivate our hockey club, help us show him we're not what he feels we are."
"Nobody likes to be told you should be given a handicap because you're not as good," said Cherry Meehan."That was a pretty close hockey game and there was no question about our skating with them, hitting with them. We just have to score goals. If anything, we have to be careful not to be so psyched up that we can't function at a normal level."