The Washington Capitals, who refrained from dealing with other NHL teams during a 13-game losing streak, tonight refused to stand pat with a four-game victory streak.
The Capitals moved to fill two obvious deficiencies by acquiring right wing Bob Gould and defenseman-winger Randy Holt from the Calgary Flames for that tortured anomaly, future considerations.
Gould, 24, is a University of New Hampshire product who scored three goals against St. Louis in the Flames' second game of the season. Shut out in the next 14 while the Flames floundered, he was assigned to Oklahoma City of the Central League. At 5 feet 11 and 195 pounds, he is defensive oriented, with good penalty-killing skills.
Holt, 28, provides toughness that the Capitals have lacked. His statistics -- two goals and 839 penalty minutes in 246 regular-season games -- make his role obvious, although he fooled Philadelphia last year with the tying and winning goals in a key 5-4 Stanley Cup victory.
"Gould will fill a gap on the right side on the third line, where we've been rotating a lot of people," said General Manager Roger Crozier. "We have two good lines, now maybe we'll have a third. And the toughness from Holt will add a little dimension to our hockey club."
Coach Bryan Murray did not try to extol Holt's virtues as a player. Instead, he pointed out that Holt would make life easier for the Capitals' pure shooters, who frequently find themselves harassed by enforcers.
"There is no question that the division we're in we have to have some toughness," Murray said. "Holt will make a number of people better hockey players. He will allow people like Ryan Walter to improve in the skill areas, instead of filling the tough-guy role.
"If you don't have a guy like Paul Holmgren or Randy Holt to lead in the toughness department, you're forced to let Ryan Walter or Howard Walker or Rick Green lead in it, and their overall play suffers."
Gould, assuming adverse weather conditions here do not prevent his arrival from Oklahoma City, will play on a line with Gaetan Duchesne and Tim Tookey Wednesday (WDCA-TV 20 at 8:30 p.m.), when the Capitals try to match the team record of five straight victories in a revenge game against the Minnesota North Stars. A triumph also would equal the Capitals' modest mark of three straight road successes.
Whether Holt will play is a decision Murray left for later, since Minnesota is well down the penalty list and usually eschews roughhouse tactics, while using an effective power play that makes opponents pay dearly for fouls.
This game is a test of the Capitals' newly discovered aptitude, following the 13-game slide. Minnesota is a Stanley Cup finalist and one of the better skating teams in the NHL, and it was the North Stars who humiliated Washington so badly at Capital Centre Nov. 4 (6-1) that General Manager Max McNab and Coach Gary Green were fired the next day.
"Minny is one of the talented teams in the league, maybe the best offensive team," said Murray, the miracle man who has posted a 4-1-1 record since taking over Nov. 11. "We're aware of their speed and we'll maybe be a bit more conservative in our forechecking. It should be a fairly quick, offensive type hockey game, with both teams taking chances."
"Minnesota is an excellent challenge, but they're not unbeatable," said Walter, a plus-eight player over the last five contests. "This game will give us an idea of how we're going. We've reached a bit of a level and now we'll test ourselves."
"The way we're going now, we don't care who we play," said Rick Green, plus seven over the same stretch. "We just have to continue with it. We've always played well against them in Minnesota and we ought to play well this time."
"We want to get back at them and get even for that 6-1 defeat," said winger Mike Gartner, who has gotten a hot hand now that his bruised right hand is healed. "They are a much better skating team than the teams we've been playing lately. I think they had the feeling last time that they could score at will against us. Maybe they'll be a little cocky for this game and we can surprise them."
The Capitals certainly surprised Philadelphia with a two-game weekend sweep. "Even when we were a new expansion team, we never went through anything like this," the Flyers' general manager, Keith Allen, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "And losing two to Washington like that -- Holy God Almighty!"
The Capitals flew here following a stiff workout at Fort Dupont, in which winger Lou Franceschetti had his right cheekbone bruised and the skin gashed by Alan Hangsleben's stick. Late in the practice, after a power-play setup had been botched twice, Murray said, "One more time. You're going to skate for the balance if you don't get it right." The rest of the session was devoted to skating.
The Capitals sent winger Torrie Robertson back to Hershey today and left defenseman Pat Ribble and winger Bob Kelly at home. Ribble played only one shift in Philadelphia Sunday, after sitting out four of the previous five games. Kelly did not dress for the last three games.
Kelly and Murray had a long discussion about Kelly's status after practice on Monday and Murray said, "He just wanted to know what his role was going to be. I told him he was one of the physical people on the hockey club and he had to play that role. If he does, he can make a contribution."
Before leaving for Minnesota, the team received official management recognition of its turnaround when the entire squad was called into Abe Pollin's office at Capital Centre and received the owner's congratulations.