Jim Bedard, one month past his 22nd brithday, will make a comeback attempt tonight that is crucial to the future plans of the Washington Captials.
Bedard, back from 10 days of exile in Hershey. Pa., will be the Capitals' starting goalie as they battle the Boston Bruins at Boston Garden in a game to be televised by WDCA-TV 20 at 7:30 p.m.
Ig Bedard has regained his confidence and is able to return to his form of a year ago, General Manager Max McNab can cross out one large item from his list of problems. If not, McNab must deal for a solid goaltender, because he and Coach Danny Belisle do not feel Bernie Wolfe displays the consistency necessary for a No. 1 goalie.
Bedard's task is not made easier by the fact that Washington will be playing without right wing Tom Rowe, its leading scorer with 13. Rowe was suspended for two games and fined $200 yesterday by Executive Vice President Brian O'Neill of the NHL for his prolonged temper tantrum in Los Angeles Dec. 4.
Rowe refused to leave the ice after a fight with the Kings' Darryl Edestrand, then roughed up linesman Bob Luther.
"The decision was in line with previous rulings," said McNab, who accompanied Rowe to his hearing in Montreal. "It's all on tape, what can you say? Tom recognizes there is a point at which you stop."
"I never should have conducted myself the way I did," conceded Rowe, who was nevertheless disappointed to miss the Boston game, since he is a native of Lynn, Mass.
Asked if he is conscious of the pressure accompanying his return to NHL action, Bedard said, "There's pressure any time you play the Boston Bruins. It is important for me to play well. I know what I have to do. I need to challenge the shooters the way I did before.
"I had a good practice today. It's not as if I lacked anything going to Hershey. But I've been keeping my eye on the puck more, moving around the net more. Maybe I just got complacent and figured I had the No. 1 job wrapped up. I usually go best when I have competition with the other goaltender."
Bedard was shipped to Hershey Dec. 2, the day after he was victimized by Pittsburgh, 7-4. The move was sudden, since he had played three straight games, but it was not unexpected.
"It wasn't like a rude awakening," Bedard said. "I could see it coming. I had not played well. Instead of challenging the shooters, I had been sitting back and letting them pick me apart. The whole game I would think about doing this if something happened or doing that if something else happened, instead of just playing the game.
"I'm okay now. After being in Hershey nine days, I realize there is only one place to play. I don't want to see the likes of Hershey, Pennsylvania, again."
Belisle was pleased with Bedard's effort in the 90-minute workout at Fort Dupont.
"That the best he's worked since I've been here, so far as being intent on it," Belisle said. "He's going to have to work in practice on all the little things. When you're 35, you just keep yourself sharp, but when you're 22 you've got to work in practice.
"Hust because somebody says to you at 22 that you'll be a good NHL goaltender doesn't make it so. There's no way unless you work at it. You have to concentrate, more than any other position."
Rolf Edberg has been reassigned once more, to play left wing alongside Ryan Walter, with Mark Lofthouse at right wing.
"Edberg presents a problem," Belisle said. "He's a good hockey player, but his natural position is center and we've got (Guy) Charron, (Dennis) Maruk and Walter, none of whom has been able to adapt to the wing."
The Swede was happy to be able to play regularly, regardless of position.
"I need to play," Edberg said. "It is very tough to come in during the game-one shift the first period, two shifts the second period-and play your best. Ryan and I have talked and we think this can give us chances and we hope we score, too."
Edberg's countryman, defenseman Leif Svensson, missed the practice with a bruised thigh muscle, but trainer Gump Embro said he would be ready tonight.
Defenseman Robert Picard, who took another blow on his ailing shoulder during Tuesday's 4-3 loss to Colorado, was on the ice anyway. His weight has dropped to 200, from 208, althoughhe said "I'm eating everything in sight."