The Washington Capitals' visit to Sweden does not fall into the vacation category. Yesterday, before attending a reception at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm, the Capitals were pushed through a demanding three-hour practice.
Following an extended session on the ice, the players were given a choice of three alternatives: a 24-minute endurance skate, a four-mile run completed within 28 minutes, or its equivalent in cycling.
"We're trying to improve their aerobic conditioning," Coach Gary Green said over the long-distance lines. "Our purpose in coming here was conditioning and to see what young guys could do against good competition. We took a different attitude from last year, when winning was paramount and we overplayed people like Garts (Mike Gartner) and Pee Wee (Dennis Maruk)."
After two games, the Capitals have no chance to retain their Dagens Nyheter Tournament title. They lost to Vastra Frolunda, 7-4, in Goteborg Thursday and fell to AIK, 6-1, in Stockholm Friday. Today the Capitals will face the New York Rangers in a sold-out rink at Sodertalje.
"Their teams are much better prepared this year," Green said. "Our winning last year didn't help. We're five weeks behind them and we've looked like a team that was put together after three or four practices. They are playing together well and they're better prepared than we are. AIK, in particular, is a good skating, puck-handling team.
"I'm not concerned about it. These games don't count two points and that's what we're aiming for on Oct. 7. We're trying to win, but it's more important to get ready for the NHL season. I've been juggling the lines, moving people around so that the young guys get a chance to play with somebody good, not with each other. And I've used the young guys on defense, too."
In 1980, the Capitals spent a week at Hershey before flying to Sweden. Besides playing his regulars most of the time, Green let Mike Palmateer and Wayne Stephenson go full games. This year he has alternated goalies, with newcomer Al Jensen playing half of each game.
The highlight so far has been the play of Bobby Carpenter, who scored two goals in Goteborg and played well against AIK. Carpenter was used at center in a revamped power play that produced the only score Friday. Ryan Walter was at left wing, Maruk at right wing, Bengt Gustafsson at the left point and Gartner at the right point.
"Obviously, Bobby Carpenter has been a pleasant surprise," Green said. "He has played well with Garts and Ryan in both games. Orest Kindrachuk played his first game Friday and looked very good out there, although his type of play is more suited to the American game. And Timo Blomquist was impressive. His skills are very good."
Green moved Blomquist, a right-handed shooting defenseman, to left wing on his second power-play unit, with Kindrachuk at center, Tim Tookey at right wing and Darren Veitch and Howard Walker at the points.
Despite the presence of Blomquist, Gustafsson and Swede Roland Stoltz, the Capitals have had almost as much trouble with the language as with the opposition.
Green removed his team from the ice with four minutes left in the AIK game when he discovered the Finnish referee was officiating by International Ice Hockey Federation rules, rather than the NHL rules prescribed in the contract. The Capitals returned only after it was announced to the crowd that the referee was at fault, not them.
The referee refused to talk to anyone except Walter, the team captain, and waved away Gustafsson when the Swede tried to interpret.
"Gus said his Swedish wasn't any good anyway," Green said. "He just spoke Finnish and a little English. But I think his English was better than he let on. He gave us a minor for delay and came over to threaten us with another. I told him I was taking my team off the ice and he just shrugged and said, 'Okay.' "
Green at least had a sympathetic listener. Herb Brooks, the Rangers' coach, was at the AIK game and afterward told Green that "I took my team off the ice a lot of times in Europe.