Still trying to get their act together, the Washington Capitals are taking it on the road for a three-city tour, beginning tonight in Pittsburgh.
"This becomes our first four-point game," said General Manager David Poile yesterday. The Penguins (2-6-1) currently sit at the bottom of the Patrick Division, just below Washington. A victory by the Capitals in the 7:35 game (WDCA-TV-20) would widen their slim lead in the standings.
"They've (Penguins) had great goaltending from (Michel) Dion again this year. Against Philadelphia, he just frustrated people so bad," said Capitals Coach Bryan Murray. Pittsburgh beat Philadelphia, 4-2, Sunday night, but has struggled through the early going, as Murray pointed out.
"They've had troubles, just as we have," he said. "They're not as quick a team as we are; they tend to clutch and grab a lot. What we have to do is get to Dion."
Dave Parro, who played in the loss to Minnesota Saturday, will start tonight. "He said yesterday he felt better than he has. And he played pretty well Saturday, so I want to give him the chance," Murray said.
No major personnel changes will show up on the ice tonight. Aside from bringing up defenseman Greg Theberge from Hershey to beef up the team's power play, Poile and Murray are staying with virtually the same lineup.
"We'll keep these same 13 forwards and two goalies," Poile said. "We haven't played poorly against anybody but Buffalo, and I want to watch this team play more hockey. Maybe later there will be more of a pattern emerging and shortcomings might become evident, but for now, this is it."
Murray said Theberge's presence will help provide more mobility on the blueline. "Our power play really hasn't worked as well as we'd hoped (nine goals in 45 tries), and we feel maybe a specialist there will help," he said. With Brian Engblom and Rod Langway killing penalties, skating on the power play and taking a regular shift, "Theberge maybe can save them in some situations."
Murray is still shuffling line combinations in his search for the right chemistry, breaking up lines with "guys we felt were just standing around."
Bobby Carpenter will skate between Alan Haworth and Gaetan Duchesne.
"Maybe he (Carpenter) was forcing passes, maybe he prefers playing center," Murray said. "With this new line, we've got three excellent skaters, and I'm hoping it works."
Bengt Gustafsson moves to Dennis Maruk's line, along with Ken Houston. "Again, to get somebody besides Dennis who'll go into the zone and create some offense," Murray said. "And Milan Novy, between Craig Laughlin and Gartner, worked in the last game and a few days before."
The only group intact is the "checking" line, Doug Jarvis centering Bob Gould and Ted Bulley or Torrie Robertson.