"Terrific Trio 14, 12, 23!" read the banner in the upper reaches of Capital Centre yesterday. When the Washington Capitals took the ice to face the Winnipeg Jets, however, the Gee Whiz Line of Gaetan Duchesne (14), Glen Currie (12) and Bobby Gould (23) no longer was intact.
Milan Novy was in the middle, with Currie reassigned as the left wing for a new unit with Doug Jarvis and Ken Houston.
Since the Gee Whizzers had been an outstanding line for 45 straight games, Coach Bryan Murray was pressed to explain his reasons for the shift. After a few words devoted to the need for workers to get Novy working, Murray acknowledged that he was looking ahead to the likely playoff matchup against the New York Islanders.
The Capitals, without playoff experience in their first eight seasons, are well behind schedule and Murray is not the kind to settle for mere participation this time. He wants to win and the prime object of his disaffection is the Islanders' star center, Bryan Trottier.
Jarvis, in seven seasons at Montreal, earned a reputation for neutralizing Trottier, so Murray now is embarked on an experiment designed to find the proper flankers to accompany Jarvis in a playoff matchup against Trottier and Co.
"We didn't fare too well in the matchups on the Island Thursday (an 8-3 loss) and in the future I'm convinced I'll have to play Jarvis against Trottier," Murray said. "I'm trying a few guys in different situations to see how it works down the line."
For first returns, yesterday's move looked almost as prescient as Murray's alignment of Alan Haworth, Bobby Carpenter and Craig Laughlin, which immediately spurred Haworth to a 10-game scoring streak. Houston and Currie, both assisted by Jarvis, scored first-period goals in a 6-1 Washington victory.
The new lines were unfolded, without comment, during Saturday's practice at the Bowie Ice Rink. Currie, who arrived 10 minutes late, thought he was just being punished.
"I was late for practice and when I got there, Milan was at center, so when he stayed there for the whole practice I still didn't think I was being shifted," Currie said. "I was really surprised today when Bryan gave us the lines.
"He told me to try not to get caught out of position and just hold up my responsibility on defense. Actually, it's a lot easier than playing center. I had played a bit of left wing for Gary Green and a little in the minors, so it's not all new."
If Currie should stay with Jarvis, it would mean he would be matched against Mike Bossy, who scored three goals for the Islanders Thursday. Currie and Bossy were linemates for two years in junior hockey at Laval, Quebec.
"Mike was my right wing for two years; that's how I scored all my points," Currie said. "I don't know what to think about going against him. The playoffs are still quite a bit away. But I've covered some tough centermen, so I'm sure I can handle it on left wing."