Things have gotten so bad for the Washington Capitals that players are joining the injured list before they can even report to the team.
Center Glen Currie, summoned from Hershey Monday to replace ailing Rolf Edberg, suffered a hip pointer during Sunday's game at Rochester. Although Currie finished that contest, it ltightened up and proved very painful when he tried to skate yesterday, so center Tim Tookey will join the Capitals instead for tonight's 7:30 Capital Centre contest against Edmonton.
Tookey, a fifth-round draft pick in 1979, will be making his NHL debut on a line with Wes Jarvis and Alan Hangsleben. Tookey scored 141 points last year for Portland in the Western Junior League and currently is Hershey's leading scorer with 12 goals and 18 assists. Since Tookey has been playing with a strained knee, however, he will be checked out here this morning before officially being added to the rooster.
Bob Kelly and Jean Pronovost, two Capitals who have been playing sick, were excused from practice early yesterday. They professed to be ready, though, to face the Oilers.
Also ready is Ryan Walter, whose adrenaline flows a little faster when people like Wayne Gretzky are skating for the opposition. Gretzky are skating for the opposition. Gretzky, the National Hockey League's most valuable player last season, is the principal reason the Capitals have beaten Edmonton only once in five tries, on a night Gretzky was sick.
In one Oiler victory last year, Gretzky recorded seven assists to tie the NHL record. However, in a 2-2 tie last month in Edmonton, Walter rotated as a center on two different lines and shadowed Gretzky into a pointless night.
Washington Coach Gary Green still was undecided yesterday, pending his view of the Oilers' game in Detroit last night, whether Walter would resume his shadow routine. Regardless, it will be the line of Walter, Bengt Gustafsson and Mike Gartner that will skate against Gretzky and he will be the focus of attention.
"Obviously Gretzky is their No. 1 guy, and the guy we've got to worry about," Green said. "But I'm not sure we'll shadow him in our own building. aGretzky can't score if the puck is in their end all night and our forwards are capable of keeping it there."
Gretzky, who scored 137 points a year ago, was just about even with that pace entering last night's contest, having scored 45 points in 28 games.
"You look at their team and the points Wayne has got, and that's exactly their team," Walter said. "You have to pay him extra attention, just like you would the (Marcel) Dionne line with Los Angeles or the (Bryan) Trottier line with the Islanders. But I think Wayne is the most individual player you have to pay attention to, either a shadow or line attention.
"He's not a great skater, but he gets off in quick bursts and since he rarely goes in his own end, you have to keep a close watch on him at the red line and try to keep him from getting started."
The shift of Gustafsson onto the Walter-Gartner line lin place of Paul Mulvey figures to boost the offensive production, as was the case Sunday when the trio accounted for three of the Capitals' four goals. Walter, like Gartner, has excellent offensive tools and there is reason to believe they have been underutilized, despite his 10 goals and 16 assists.