The Washington Capitals summoned defenseman Tony Camazzola, 19, from Brandon of the Western Junior League yesterday in what was expected to be the first of a series of moves to revive a struggling team that ranks last in the NHL after winning only one of its last nine games.
Camazzola, 6-2 and 210 pounds, becomes the only left-handed shooting defenseman on the team, at least until Rick Green's shoulder is sound enough for him to return to action. That prospect has been delayed, probably until Thursday.
"Camazzola and Green could give us something solid back there," said Coach Bryan Murray. "Camazzola is a big kid and he banged a few guys in training camp. He needs to work on his skating, but at least he tries. We have guys back there who aren't even trying."
When the Capitals returned from Pittsburgh yesterday, Murray ordered the players to a team meeting in the lounge next to the Capital Centre dressing room. From earlier comments, it can be assumed that he was not wishing anyone a happy new year.
"We're not willing to make any commitment to play the game," Murray said after Wednesday's 6-2 loss in Pittsburgh. "We were totally disorganized, there was an obvious lack of effort and there was a lack of concern about being competitive."
Asked whether he felt a shake-up of personnel was necessary, Murray said, "Definitely. There is no question some people have eliminated themselves from playing on this hockey team."
After meeting the players, Murray sat with General Manager Roger Crozier to discuss possible changes. Presumably, they will be forthcoming today, with those nominated for demotion granted a reprieve until after the team's New Year's Eve celebration last night.
One player with something to celebrate was winger Gaetan Duchesne, despite hobbling on a badly bruised right ankle. It was feared the ankle might have been cracked when Duchesne was slammed into the boards Wednesday, but X-rays yesterday showed no break. Duchesne will rest today, then test the ankle in the morning skate Saturday. Bengt Gustafsson, idle since Dec. 23 with pulled tendons in his left ankle, is expected to return for Saturday's home game against Vancouver.
Most of the players were happy to see the year end. It brought a disastrous 23-47-10 record, with a 13-game winless streak in February and March contributing to a last-night playoff elimination and a 13-game losing streak in October and November, helping to dim playoff hopes for this season.
In NHL action last night, Buffalo defeated Minnesota, 4-2; Toronto stopped Detroit, 5-2; and Vancouver bested Edmonton, 3-1.