The Washington Capitals disappered into the sunset today, to be heard from infrequently until they return to Capital Centre to face Montreal Feb. 19.
In the interim, the Capitals will play road games in Winnipeg tonight, Los Angeles Tuesday Edmonton Feb. 15 and Feb. 16. None of the games will be televised and only the Vancouver contest will be broadcast in its entirety by Wtop-1500. The Los Angeles game will be picked up in progress, the other two ignored.
Coach Gary Green, usually accompanied by management types at all stops, is on his own at least until Tuesday, when General Manager Max McNab is scheduled to join the team after a fast scouting trip through the Central Hockey League.
Roger Crozier, the Capitals' assistant general manager, is heading for a 10th anniversary reunion in Buffalo, then will watch Ontario junior players and join Jack Button, the team's player recruitment director, and scout David McNab at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Max McNab's immediate task is to locate a defenseman -- or two or three Brent Tremblay's sore back has been placed in traction, Pete Scamurra's ailing knee has been placed in a cast, fluid on the knee has delayed Yvon Labre's return, Greg Theberge has back problems and Jay Johnston is suffering from a neck injury.
For the ultimate disaster, McNab signed Roger Lemelin, a journeyman, to boost Hershey's depleted backline. Lemelin suffered a knee injury in his first game.
Green spent two days working with Alan Hangsleben on a line with Swedish forwards Rolf Edgerg and Bengt Fustafsson. It looked like a good move, until Paul MacKinnon was rammed into the borads in the second period in Detroit Wednesday night and suffered a mild concussion. Hangsleben was forced to move back on defense.
That shift at least produced a temporarily happy ending when benchwarmer Bob Sirois took over Hangsleben's forward role and scored the goal that gave the Capitals a 2-2 tie.
"You don't see any gray hairs in my head," Green said afterward, smiling.
"That's because I pick them out every morning."
Green still believes his current corps is capable of reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"The injuries have hurt, but I'm confident the players we have healthy can play better," Green said. "With the proper concentration they can beat any of the teams we play on this trip."
MacKinnon flew to Winnipeg with the team today and he will wear his old facemask against the Jets. MacKinnon was banged on the right side of the face, the same area where he suffered fractured orbital bones and a broken jaw in November.
Tonight's game marks the last chance for Tom McVie to beat his old club this season. The Jets, who share last place with the Capitals, have lost two and tied one with Washington.
Another former coach surfaced in Detroit to add to Green's gray-hair syndrome. Although the Capitals' roster page in the program included a picture of Hangsleben, acquired Jan. 17, it also featured as coach the face of Danny Belisle, fired Nov. 14.