Bob Gould, a 1979 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, has gone back to school this fall.
Gould's field of study, as prescribed by Coach Bryan Murray and taught by anyone with a helpful hint, is how to play center for the Washington Capitals.
Since Gould has been a right wing throughout his college and pro career, the adjustment has not been an easy one. However, an indication that he is succeeding came Saturday night in Los Angeles, when he scored two goals in a 5-4 victory over the Kings.
There never has been any concern about Gould's ability to play any forward position defensively. But the fact that his best NHL season resulted in only 22 goals has kept him from skating with one of the Capitals' top lines.
Gould is playing between Lou Franceschetti and Ed Kastelic on a fourth line designed for heavy checking duty. But in the third period, with the game on the line, he may be used with other wingers or even moved to right wing for a shift or two.
"What we've done is make him a utility guy," Murray said. "He's our 10th forward, and he could be at right wing or left wing or center. No matter where he is, he makes a contribution every game.
"He's a good honest checker, and he gets the puck out of our end. When you're trying to protect a one-goal lead, as we seem to be doing every night lately, you keep coming back with a guy like that because you know he'll make the good play and won't get you in trouble."
Gould, the ultimate team player, has accepted the role, knowing his limitations and trying hard to improve where he sees a shortcoming.
"Bryan changes things a lot, and as long as I'm playing, that's fine," Gould said. "I'd like to be on one of the top two lines, knowing I'd get a lot of ice time, but I'm pretty happy with the way things are going. I would like to have a few more goals.
"I know it's hard to find a spot for me on the right side, with Davy Christian there and Locker (Craig Laughlin) and Garts (Mike Gartner) playing so well. So if I can help at center, I'll do my best.
"I've been having a tough time on faceoffs, but when it's critical, they've been putting somebody else out. I don't want to lose a game in that situation. Gus (Bengt Gustafsson) and Bobby (Carpenter) have been giving me some advice on faceoffs, and when we get home I'll have to give Jarvie (Doug Jarvis) a phone call."
Jarvis, the Capitals' faceoff expert, was traded to Hartford Dec. 6, and that was even more of a blow to Gould than to other shocked teammates, because Gould and Jarvis drove to practice and games together.
Gould knows that such partings come with the job. He began his pro career with the Flames and was traded to Washington with Randy Holt in November 1981 for Pat Ribble and a second-round draft pick. He quickly became a team leader with the Capitals, if not a top scorer.
Gould and Gartner serve as alternate captains, a position of on-ice responsibility revived by the NHL this season. The appointment surprised Gould, although Murray had sound reasons for making it.
"It was kind of an honor, and I was pretty pleased by it," Gould said. "Last year I didn't get a lot of ice time, and I didn't play very well. You usually pick captains from guys who perform well on the ice, and I would have thought it would be given to Davy Christian or Bobby Carpenter."
"Bobby Gould is a good person and a popular person," Murray said. "He's well-liked and respected in the room. And his style of play is symbolic of our team -- hard working and grinding.
"We often don't recognize guys like this, because they don't score a large number of goals. But that type of person is what our team is all about. He is representative of more players on our team than the other type."
Gould has been a key figure in Washington's penalty-killing unit since he arrived, and the current emphasis on aggressive play in the opponents' end required other adjustments for him. The Capitals, No. 1 in that area two years ago, have climbed into the top spot again, and Gould, teamed with Gaetan Duchesne, has been outstanding. Gould scored a short-handed goal earlier this season against the Vancouver Canucks, Washington's opponent here Tuesday night.
"We kind of sat back last year and didn't put on enough pressure," Gould said. "We let them set up in our zone without a fight. Now we're hounding them all over the ice, and it's paying off."
Although Gould obviously has made some awkward moves while dabbling in unfamiliar areas, coaches and teammates have spared him other than constructive criticism. But after one night as a left wing, he found his ability questioned elsewhere.
"I had trouble trying to take passes on my backhand, and I had trouble in our end when the puck came around the boards," Gould said. "It had been a tough night, and when I got home, my wife said I'd looked a little lost. I didn't say anything. I don't need criticism from her, even though she was right, as usual." Whalers 4, Canadiens 4
Dean Evason, Dave Babych and Stewart Gavin scored third-period goals to lead Hartford to the tie in Montreal.
With the Canadiens leading by 4-1 at 9:10 of the third period, Evason scored through the legs of goalie Steve Penney.
Babych narrowed the lead to 4-3 at 12:24 with a high over-the-shoulder drive from the blueline. Gavin's 10th goal of the season, on a breakaway from the blue line, tied the score.
There were four fights in the game, and referee Denis Morel handed out eight major penalties, one 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct, which went to Montreal's Lucien Deblois.