Dennis Hextall, at 36 the oldest player on the Washington Capitals' active roster, attained authority as well as seniority yesterday when he was named an assistant coach.
Hextall will continue as a player but in a limited role, depending on the opposition and the success of the younger Capitals.
"I still think I can play and contribute," Hextall said, "but there's a lot of young talent here and possibly I can help more by working with them. It's definitely going to be an adjustment on my part. Most of these guys are my friends, but now if I'm asked to give an opinion, I'll have to be objective about it.
"It's a pretty good challenge and I'm damn proud they even considered me. I never contemplated coaching before. You just play from year to year and never really think about it." team. When two guys can communicate, you're that much farther ahead. He can help as fas as video goes, reviewing games and situations, and he can help me in making decisions. We're carrying extra players and every day we have a review of what to do with each guy."
"He has general hockey knowledge and the ability to put it across," General-Manager Max McNab said of Hextall. "We have to be mentally tough in our preparation and I don't know two people who qualify better than Ryan (Walter, the team captain) and Hex. They're the two quys who get morebruises and make fewer friends."
Hextall began his NHL career with the New York Rangers n 1968 and has also played for Los Angeles, California, Minnesota and Detroit. He was signed by the Caitals ater the Red Wins dropped him in February.
The playoffs are not the end all for this team," Hextall said. "It's a question of how far up the ladder we canfinish. I think we can finish second or third in out division and if we can we'll be well up in the overall standings.
"What we have to do is get out there and hit. We used to laugh at the Washington Capitals when we came in to play them because only three or four guys would hit you. Most teams in this league have a couple of guys who don't like the heavy going. If we can get one line after another to come out hitting, we've got a good chance to go places."
So much for Hextall's philosphy of caching. If the captials are hitting Friday, it should be a wild night at Capital Centre, because the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs are notorious hitters themselves.
Defenseman Rick Green skated yesterday and Belisle said his ankle was responding. Belisle was uncertain whether green would play Friday, however. The Capitals have won both games Green missed, so there is no urgency to inject him into the lineup.
Right wing Mike Gartner, who suffered a charley horse in his right thigh during Tuesday's 8-6 victory over Los Angeles, did not skate yesterday and Belisle does not intend to rush him. Defenseman Pierre Bouchard aggravated his groin pull at practice and is a definite scratch Friday.