Nelson Burton celebrated his 21st birthday yesterday, but when he was ushered into the office of Washington Capitals General Manager Max McNab after practice, it was not party time.
Burton and fellow winger Eddy Godin were sent to Hershey of the American Hockey league, to refine their skills. Joining them was defenseman Jack Lynch, recovered from the pulled leg muscle that had temporarily halted his comeback after 1 1/2 games with the Bears.
Burton had played only three games in Washington serving 13 penalty minutes without scoring. Although he made the trip to Montreal and Long Island last week, he did not dress, McNab fearing his proclivity for taking cheap penalties might prove disastrous against those clubs' potent power plays.
Godin played nine games, collecting three assists, but it was obvious he was over his head against teams like the Candiens and the Islanders.
The future for both players was sealed when Mark Lofthoue, Rolf Edberg and recently recalled Bill Riley turned in solid performances during Sunday's 3-3 tie with Detroit get add one
"We wanted to have a look at Nelson and we wanted him to have a look at us," McNab said. "He has to learn to control the puck in traffic a little better. He has the potential to be a good corner man if he learns to play both the puck and the man. Right now his concentration is on the man.
"He's not going to be knocked off the puck and he could have a bright future. The improvement I've seen in a year has been pretty dramatic."
In Godin's case, McNab said "a bit of maturity is required. He has every skill, but there are certain physical conditions that have to be met. He needs to be stronger along the boards. Lofthouse and Riley should supply that for us, especially in our end."
Hershey plays three games this week and McNab said that "based on what Jack tells us and on what (Hershey General Manger) Frank Mathers tells us, assuming all goes well, there is a good possibility that he (Lynch) will be with us at practice next Monday."
Lynch underwent surgery on his right knee Dec. 15 and had completed laborious rehabilitation when he was sent to Hershey two weeks ago. In his second game, he suffered the pulled muscle behind the knee and was immediately brought here for treatment and observation. The knee was judged 100 percent sound.