It is a widely accepted theory among followers of the Washington Capitals that the return of Rolf Edberg, currently projected for Wednesday, once again will again bring out the best in Bengt Gustafsson. Among the believers is Gustafsson himself.
A different view is held by Coach Gary Green, who plans to use both Swedes as centers, thereby keeping them apart. Green claims to have seen considerable improvement in Gustafsson's play over the last three games and has high hopes for a big showing by the youngster when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Capital Centre at 8.
As a right wing alongside Edberg, Gustafsson scored four goals in the Capitals' first five games. He has scored only three in the next 22 and, since Edberg suffered a sprained right knee on Nov. 13, he has netted only one.
"I'm tired," Gustafsson said after yesterday's practice at Fort Dupont. "In Sweden we played only twice a week and we had two days off. Here we practice every day that we don't play and the body doesn't have much time to recover.
"I just feel now that I'm skating up and down but not handling the puck. I'm not in the game and I'm not accomplishing anything."
Besides his lack of production, Gustafsson has been hampered by a bruised elbow and, currently, an infected toe.
"There's no doubt he has been affected by tiredness," Green said. "It's been a total adjustment for him. We have an 80-game schedule compared to 30 there, we have different practice times here, there is an adjustment in life in general. The food is a factor, too.
"When he first came over it was probably like a holiday, but as I learned in Europe, after you're on the other side for a few days you start to get tired of the food and whatever, and there is a lag.
"There was a drop in his effectiveness for a while, but I think he's been jumping again the last few games. It may not be that noticeable, even to him, because of the way the opposition has been able to key on him with our other guys hurt.
"Before the Buffalo game, Craig Ramsay came over and asked me if Gusty was going to play. I told him they'd have to contend with him and Craig commented on how much talent he had. Buffalo played him tight all night.
"Playing a disciplined system is a change, too. He probably worked well with Rolf because of the wide-open system they were using. But once he gets accustomed to my system, he should be outstanding."
Tom Rowe, who missed Tuesday's game with a bruised left foot, returns tonight. One or two players also will ride the emergency shuttle from Hershey, which must play tonight without Gary Rissling, suspended for his part in a bench-clearing battle Wednesday.
General Manager Max McNab, back from a meeting with his opposite numbers in Florida, reported that a deal for suspended Gord Lane likely would be effected this weekend.
"We've had several offers of minor leaguers, but Gord Lane was a regular with us and we want somebody in the league that we have a good evaluation on in exchange," McNab said.