With the Washington Capitals 1-4 and sputtering, Coach Gary Green prescribed wholesale adjustments and hard work yesterday.
The Roaring Twenties Line was dissolved and its principal producing component, Dennis Maruk, was assigned as the center for Bengt Gustafsson and Roland Stoltz when the Buffalo Sabres visit Capital Centre tonight at 8.
Bob Kelly, with one assist in five games, was shifted to right wing on a new unit that includes Gaetan Duchesne on the left side and Glen Currie at center. Currie scored a goal in Philadelphia Thursday after being recalled to fill in for ailing Orest Kindrachuk.
Green also shook up his power-play crew. Ryan Walter will center the No. 1 group, flanked by Stoltz and Gustafsson. Bobby Carpenter and Greg Theberge remain at the points.
"I'm trying to give Pee Wee (Maruk) more speed," Green said of the Roaring Twenties' breakup. "I like Gus at center, but right now I need skating. If Pee Wee is going to go, he needs guys to go with him.
"This is no reflection on Hound (Kelly) or Prony (Jean Pronovost). But somebody said after Wednesday night's game with Philly that young legs are what it's taking these days and I think that's probably true.
"We'll see if we can get two lines really going well offensively. If Kid's (Currie) line can produce and at least hold its own, then we'll be all right. We'll use Prony and Hank (Alan Hangsleben) in special situations. Prony provides stability and Hank aggressiveness."
The power play has produced only three goals in 20 opportunities and there have been few shots on goal during extra-man situations.
"I can't say I'm satisfied with the passing on the power play," Green said. "Passing is such a vital part of the power play. Gus should help in that area."
Gustafsson is being asked to shoulder a large portion of the offensive burden, considering that he has only one assist in five games. But he has so much talent that it has seemed for two-plus seasons he is merely waiting for the right partners to achieve a breakthrough to stardom.
Green also experimented with a new defensive combination, pairing Pat Ribble with Theberge, but he said he would wait until this morning's pregame skate to finalize any change.
Much of the practice at Fort Dupont was devoted to net coverage, with the defensemen ordered to clear the forwards away from the goaltenders' line of sight and the forwards told to hang in for deflections on shots from the point. These were the Capitals' weakest areas in Thursday's 5-2 loss at Philadelphia.
"To win in pro hockey you have to control in front of the nets and in the corners," said General Manager Max McNab. "We have reasonable size back there to be clearing them out better. The Flyers controlled both ends. They were making tip-ins at one end and clearing out at the other end."
Tonight's game marks the only visit this season by the Sabres, who beat the Capitals, 5-3, in the opener at Buffalo 10 days ago. It is also family-date night, a rare half-price ticket offering for all except the initial purchaser.
The Sabres are hoping that center Andre Savard will make his seasonal debut, after suffering a knee injury in training camp. Two other centers are out, Gil Perreault with a broken ankle and Derek Smith with a shoulder separation.
Buffalo, which has compiled a 12-1-3 lifetime mark at Capital Centre, owns a worse power-play record than Washington, one for 15, and its captain, 46-goal scorer Danny Gare, is still looking for No. 1 this season.
Quebec follows Buffalo into the Centre Wednesday, then the Capitals face the Stanley Cup-champion New York Islanders in a home-and-home set before departing on a three-game West Coast trip.
"The next two games are tremendously important," McNab said. The grim faces at Capital Centre indicated that he wasn't kidding.