With eight home games in December, including Wednesday's meeting with the high-scoring Minnesota North Stars, the Washington Capitals finally are in a position to make a move in the National Hockey League standings.
The Capitals return home after a weekend sweep of the Toronto Maple Leafs, which improved their record to 8-6-9 for 25 points, ninth best in the NHL prior to yesterday's games. Washington comes off a 5-2-6 November and has not lost since Nov. 18.
"A few times in the past we have reached a certain point against a team we had to beat and we've fallen short," said Capital General Manager Max McNab from his office yesterday while Coach Gary Green was in Buffalo to scout the Colorado Rockies, an upcoming Capital Centre foe.
"We didn't have the depth, talent and capability in the past. But to do it so conclusively (best Toronto) was no fluke. We had a pretty decided edge."
McNab is especially pleased with the Capitals' defense, which has covered up for injuries to Paul MacKinnon and Rick Green.
"As Earl Weaver would say, we've finally got 'deep depth'," McNab said. "But our defense shows that we finally have a little depth to offset injuries."
The Capitals' third line also came in for praise from McNab. Wes Jarvis, who rejoined the squad in late October, scored twice (as did Mike Gartner and Bob Kelly) in Saturday's 7-3 victory in Toronto. Jarvis' linemates, Dennis Ververgaert and Bengt Gustafsson, each picked up two assists.
"Jarvis is never going to lead the league in scoring, but his hard work and hockey sense are really helping," McNab said.
McNab admits he would like to win Wednesday's game against Minnesota, which won, 4-2, in Montreal Saturday, more than any other contest thus far this season. The Capitals came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Stars in preseason play in Sweden, a game Minnesota players felt Washington shouldn't have won.