When the Capitals meet Buffalo tonight at Capital Centre (8:05), some of the almost-familiar faces could be replaced by even lesser knowns. Coach Bryan Murray had hoped to finalize his line combinations. Instead, because of an outbreak of flu, he'll be juggling again.
"We're bringing up Greg Theberge from Hershey today," Murray said after practice yesterday, "and we'll make the determination (on additional players) by our meeting tomorrow morning."
Several Capitals have been fighting the virus since last Saturday, when Doug Jarvis played despite running a high fever. Rookie Scott Stevens sat out Sunday's game in Philadelphia, and other players have been ill since then.
Bobby Carpenter, who played sporadically in Toronto, has not skated in two days. Stevens appeared to be healthy, but has had a relapse. Bengt Gustafsson, who skipped the Toronto trip, is "coming around and starting to eat," Murray said, but Brian Engblom did not practice yesterday, and the coach sent Rod Langway home after 30 minutes.
"The problem with getting sick like this is that the legs become rubbery pretty quickly, and we're up against a good skating club like Buffalo," said Murray.
He and his assistant, brother Terry Murray, scouted the Sabres in their 4-2 loss in Philadelphia Thursday night. Murray said Buffalo "played well enough to win.
"They're very aggressive in style and chased the puck all over. They really put pressure on the Flyers," he said. And Murray was impressed with Buffalo's first-round draft pick, defenseman Phil Housley.
"He was the No. 1 star of the game and he played at least 40 minutes, on the power play, killing penalties, a regular shift, and it seemed a lot more," Murray said.
Housley was paired with Mike Ransey, Finn Hannu Virta and "everybody," according to Murray. "Offensively, he's great. Defensively, he's got a few problems, because of identifying what's happening in play, and maybe strength. They list him at 180 (pounds), but I'll bet he's not 170. Still, he's very impressive."
That Buffalo has yet to win a game (0-3-1) hasn't lulled Murray into expecting an easy game. "The first period in Philly, they ran roughshod over the Flyers," he said. "They gave up a bad goal and got behind, but they had four or five excellent chances late in the game. Like our club, they have a number of new, and young, people. It takes time for all of them to play well together."
Buffalo had six of the top 30 draft choices in last June's draft, including first-rounders Housley and wingers Paul Cyr and Dave Andreychuk.
"They're really going with the kids," Murray said. "Of course, there are still guys like (center Gilbert) Perreault and (winger Craig) Ramsay, but they don't always look quick enough to play with the kids."
With probable patching in the works, Murray isn't certain just which Capitals will play where tonight. The Novy line--center Milan Novy between Alan Haworth and Gaetan Duchesne, who scored the game winner Wednesday night--is likely to be together, but beyond that, Murray shrugs.
"It was tough just getting enough (players) for practice," he said.