Washington Capitals Coach Ron Wilson is adamant that a goalie controversy will not arise on his team. No matter how well backup goalie Craig Billington plays, Olaf Kolzig is the number one guy. That won't change, Wilson insists.
Wilson used Kolzig in net tonight against the Maple Leafs even though Billington had won three straight games with spectacular efforts--picking up two shutouts and keeping the Capitals in a game against the New York Islanders. After starting the first nine games of the season, Kolzig had played just once in the past 10 days, with Billington earning the team's only two shutouts this season.
Wilson gave Billington, who was acquired from Colorado over the summer, his first start in three weeks against Boston--the second of back-to-back games. Kolzig played the next game--a 5-2 loss at Buffalo--then Billington shut out Nashville and played again the following night, beating the Islanders with a 34-save performance (the Predators and Islanders were the only NHL teams Billington had not defeated entering the season).
"Olie is the number one guy, there's no question about that," Wilson said. "There would have been a lot of pressure on him going in there [Saturday] after the backup just got two straight shutouts. You don't want to create that sort of situation, either.
"We looked at the schedule and Olie is going to play far and away the bulk of the games. There aren't that many back-to-back games coming up and Saturday was a chance to play Craig while he's hot and now Olie is well-rested for a good stretch of games against some pretty good teams. It was a reward for Craig's hard work."
The schedule eases in December. The Capitals do not play back-to-back games again until Dec. 17-18. Billington is 3-1 in his four starts, stopping 101 of 106 shots. He also played great in his other start--a 2-1 loss at San Jose on Oct. 16--and has been a steadying force on a team that last season struggled with its backups, who went a combined 5-14-3.
"Our team now believes we've got a backup that is going to win games for us," Wilson said. "I think last year our backups were basically involved in five wins in 25 games. This is a totally different situation."
Forwards Joe Sacco (bruised leg) and Chris Simon (neck sprain) did not play tonight, but both skated today and Wilson said he is certain both will be in the lineup for Thursday's game against Boston. Defenseman Joe Reekie (bruised foot) is out at least a few more weeks. . . . Rookie Jeff Halpern will be chatting on the Capitals Web site Wednesday from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.