Defenseman Darren Veitch came to this gambling spa with the rest of his teammates early this morning, but his left arm was in a sling and with his luck it was suggested that he keep his money in his pocket.
Confirming the Las Vegas adage that everyone's luck changes sooner or later, Veitch won $1,000 on the slot machines within an hour of his arrival. All in all, however, he would rather have his health.
Veitch refractured his collarbone in the third period of Saturday's 3-3 tie against the Los Angeles Kings and will miss the remainder of the season. Veitch already had been absent most of the winter, since the collarbone was broken in Pittsburgh Oct. 27 and Saturday marked only his third game back.
Veitch, who saw limited duty, was playing at the time because Scott Stevens had received a double minor penalty. Veitch was thumped by Los Angeles winger Jim Fox in the Washington zone and it was obvious when he crumpled to the ice that it was serious.
"I was following a man out to the point--I think it was Dave Taylor--and I saw Fox coming," Veitch said. "I just blocked the guy, backed into him, but he ran into my shoulder and I felt it go. I went right down, because I knew I wouldn't be able to skate after anybody. What a run of luck I'm having."
"I was trying to prepare him to make a major contribution in the last 10 games and the playoffs," said Coach Bryan Murray. "I was hoping he could move in as a fourth defenseman. We were going along well as far as injuries went, now Mike (Gartner) and Darren go down."
Gartner, struck in the left eye by a puck a week ago, will be examined again Monday to determine the gravity of the injury. Murray is hoping that Gartner can rejoin the team for its next game Wednesday in Edmonton.
After Veitch was hurt, a power-play goal by Charlie Simmer lifted the Kings into a 3-2 lead. But Washington, which held an early 2-0 advantage, salvaged the tie when Ken Houston scored his second goal of the game with 10:18 remaining.
Doug Jarvis stole the puck from Simmer in the Los Angeles end and made a quick pass to free Houston a breakaway. Houston deked goalie Markus Mattsson and put a backhander behind him.
Houston's two goals gave him a season total of 21, the sixth time he has hit the 20-goal mark in the NHL. He has scored four in the last five games, since he sat out a game in Quebec.
"You have to prod Kenny," Murray said. "I was sitting him out quite a bit in the third period and he told me more than once that he wanted to play late in the hockey games. But I made him wait.
"Last night I asked him going into the third period if his legs were tired. I told him he'd looked tired on the last shift. It worked, because he really got going. And I thought he played well in the third period at Vancouver the night before.
"A big, strong guy like him will be effective in the playoffs, because he can win the battles in the corners."
Houston admitted that Murray's mind games were pushing him to work harder.
The Capitals worked out at a local health club this afternoon and will do the same on Monday before returning to Los Angeles Tuesday for a two-hour practice at the Forum. They will fly to Edmonton Tuesday night.