Q. In the last 10 games each has played, who has scored the most points -- Mike Palmateer, Dennis Maruk, Jean Pronovost or Bob Kelly?
A. Palmateer, three.
Palmateer, fully recovered from a hamstring pull suffered three weeks ago, returns to action in tonight's 7:30 Capital Centre contest against Buffalo. Despite some cynical suggestions that he be used at the point on the Washington Capitols' horrendous power play, onetime junior B forward Palmateer will be guarding the Washington goal.
Maruk, Pronovost and Kelly, the Roaring Twenties of autumn, will be together one more time, although, like their namesake, they have fallen into a great depression.
In the last 10 games, of which Washington has lost seven, the Roaring Twenties have totaled two goals, neither of which was scored while they played as a unit. Maruk and Pronovost each has recorded a goal and an assist, Kelly a lone assist.
This contrasts to a 12-game stretch in November and December when the Capitals posted a 6-2-4 mark and the Roaring Twenties contributed 27 goals.
The trio's problems were exemplified at Thursday's practice. Maruk was absent, receiving treatment for a hariline fracture of the big toe on his right foot. Kelly and Pronovost, on more than one occasion, performed pushups concurrently, the penalty for missing an open net with 30-foot slap shots.
Not only have the Roaring Twenties been missing on good scoring chances, they have also been bedeviled by sickness and injury. All three have suffered from the flu this winter and Maruk, besides the toe that was struck by a shot in Long Island Saturday, has been slowed by a charley horse.
"They were carrying a pretty heavy load and they were the key factor during our best days," said General Manager Max McNab. "I think they're professional enough to recognize a slump and work their way out of it. Things were going along so smoothly, then they ran into a tough situation.
"It all turned around in four games -- the shutout in Minnesota, the beating here by Philadelphia and the defeats in Edmonton and Calgary. Those four games slowed things up. It was a combination of a tough schedule and a lot of concentration on them. It's not a matter of lack of effort, buy they have to work together to get back on track."
Coach Gary Green, who conceived the Roaring Twenties line last summer and can see disaster looming if the trio does not get untracked, held lengthy one-on-one meetings with each player this week.
"They were given a couple of specific areas to concentrate on," Green said."One was the fact that when you're in a scoring slump and getting down on yourself, it automatically tends to put you in a situation where you don't work as hard. Hard work is a mental thing and it created a problem for them at certain periods, although not in the last few games.
"Second, they were reminded to utilize each other, to have confidence in each other and not to be so determined to end the slump by yourself. There was evidence in the Hartford game (Sunday) that each one wanted to get out of the slump so badly he was not using the others but just trying to go through the net with it.
"I'm not ready to throw in the towel on that line yet. If it continues, well . . . If they were a young rookie line, I'd probably give them a mental shift away from each other. But they're all veterans and I think they understand the problems and can start fresh and turn it around.
"It's important to our team that they do. There's no reason it should not be a good line. We created that line for technical reasons. Maruk is quick, an explosive player. Kelly is intense, good in the corners. Prony is a playmaker, able to make the passes, and a good defensive player. They clicked before and they should do it again."
"We have no solution," Pronovost said. "The only way is to work hard and communicate, and hope we come out of it. It's not because we're not trying. Any line comes into a slump at times. I don't have any magic potion."
"We really went sour for awhile," Kelly said. "I could make all kinds of excuses, but we got shut down and then we started breaking down ourselves. Each guy took it on himself to get the line out of the slump and tried to do everyone's job and you can't do that. You have to play as a line, three guys together.
"Our communications are pretty good; we'll just have to come back and work harder. There's no other way to do it. They're counting on us for production and offensively our production is way down."
"When a line gets in a slump, you tend to try to do too much yourself to try to get out of it instead of sticking to what's worked before," Maruk said. t
The opposition does not make the task easier. Like Minnesota, Buffalo is a good defensive team that has proven difficult for the Capitals. Washington's last victory over the Sabres came on April 4, 1978, when Maruk was in Cleveland, Pronovost in Pittsburgh and Kelly in Philadelphia.