The fourth line is not normally the place to find an alternate captain, but that was where center Dale Hunter found himself during Wednesday's 7-3 loss to Pittsburgh.

Peter Zezel had played on that line Saturday in his first game back from an injured ankle. He scored a goal in the loss to Toronto, while Hunter (and others) took a couple of third-period penalties Coach Terry Murray wasn't fond of. Hunter may be one of the few Capitals in this six-game winless streak who has been too intense.

"Sometimes, Dale's intensity is at a pretty high level and he plays a competitive game," Murray said. "I appreciate that. But there are times it has hurt us in situations in recent games. I don't want him to change his style but just be more selective in when and how he does it; to play it by the clock and the score.

"It's something all of us need to improve on. There have been too many games that we've lost where we've been tied or down a goal going into the third period. The game is still right there to be taken by the team that wants it. We just have to get the intensity there to a higher level." Stick 'Em Up

Zezel is planning for his retirement, or at least how his basement will look after his playing career is over. Somewhat like the fans who line the ramps to dressing rooms, Zezel has been collecting sticks from every player he's played with.

So, in seven seasons with Philadelphia, St. Louis and now Washington, Zezel has about 150 sticks. Most of them are at his parents' home in Scarborough, Ontario, but he collected a batch yesterday after practice. The sticks and 8x10 photos of the players will be part of the decor in his future basement.

"When I bring more home, my uncle jokes that he's going to use them for firewood," Zezel said.