Coach Gary Green shuffled his lines yesterday, as the Washington Capitals prepared for the difficult task of trying to snap a five-game losing streak tonight at Capital Centre against the Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders.
Meanwhile, General Manager Max McNab promised he was making every effort to make a deal that would revive a team that seems to be sliding into the sorry status of years past.
"Believe me, we're not satisfied and we're not standing still," McNab said. "If we can come out even, not trying to get an edge on anybody, we are prepared to talk business. Our executive committee (which includes owner Abe Pollin) met Wednesday and we discussed major changes."
Green's alterations rated in that category, since he revamped all his lines, including the No. 1 unit of Ryan Walter, Mike Gartner and Bobby Carpenter, that had been together since the opening of training camp at Fort Dupont six weeks ago.
Walter, the club's leading scorer, was shifted from left wing to center and he will be flanked by Gartner and left wing Gaetan Duchesne.
Green reunited the Roaring Twenties Line of Bob Kelly, Dennis Maruk and Jean Pronovost, while dropping Carpenter onto the third line with Swedish wingers Bengt Gustafsson and Roland Stoltz.
Green is contemplating the use of four full lines against the speedy Islanders and, if he follows that route, the fourth line would have Alan Hangsleben as one of the wingers. Tim Tookey and Glen Currie made up the rest of the line yesterday, but there is a possibility that Wes Jarvis and/or Tony Cassolato will be recalled from Hershey today.
Roger Crozier, the Capitals' assistant general manager, watched the Bears' game last night in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and was due to make recommendations for promotions.
Green and assistant coaches Bill Mahoney and Yvon Labre were up until 4 a.m. following Wednesday's 6-3 loss to Quebec. The new alignment resulted from their deliberations.
"I wanted to stand back and look at our strengths and weaknesses and try to start again," Green said. "You have to do that when you're losing. You have to do something. A losing coach tends to gamble a bit.
"Quebec got 20 shots against us from in close. Our net coverage is a problem and our centermen are not helping the defensemen in front of the net. Teams are cheating on us and sending three guys in deep. The result is sudden three on twos in front of our net or in the corners. We're getting beat in those areas. It's a consistent pattern.
"One of our best guys in helping out in front is Ryan Walter. I like Ryan on left wing, but the wingers' responsibilities are more on the points than in deep. I'd rather have seven shots from the point and three in close than vice versa.
"Bobby Carpenter is a hell of a hockey player, but he is raw material and we have to mold him into a two-way hockey player. Defensively, he needs work and he needs to be tought. There are a lot of things here he hasn't experienced before in high school hockey. High school is go go go and it's a big jump in the technical part. Bobby can do it skillwise.
"Ryan Walter and Mike Gartner are disciplined up-and-down players. Gaetan Duchesne is the most likely up-and-down positional winger to play with them. His strength is more the defensive game.
"We need balanced scoring like last year and Bobby Carpenter is an offensive threat on the third line. Dennis Maruk has signed a new contract and we're hoping now he'll get right back to his game. We need continuity, guys used to playing together, so I'm putting Dennis and Hound (Kelly) and Prony back together and hoping they can produce the way they did at times last year."
Green talked to the players for 1 hour 25 minutes before yesterday's Centre practice, emphasizing the need for more team togetherness and intensity.
"Communication, enthusiasm and life have to come from within," Green said. "I told them, 'I can't shove it down your throat until you gag. If you want a pass, yell for it. You know the other guy's first name; if you don't, ask it.' "
Mike Palmateer, who stopped 37 of 43 Quebec shots, will be back in goal tonight, as Green alters the rotation with Dave Parro that has been standard since the start of the season . . . The Islanders, beaten only once in their last 13 road games, will be without defenseman Denis Potvin, recuperating from a severe groin injury.