With sniper Peter Bondra out of the lineup for at least two weeks following minor knee surgery, other Capitals will have to pick up the scoring slack. Bondra missed his first game of the season last night against the New York Islanders--he entered the game with 13 goals, nearly double the total of any other player.
The Capitals' biggest problem lately has been scoring, and with their big gun out, the line of Steve Konowalchuk, Adam Oates and Richard Zednik will carry the heaviest offensive burden. This would also be the perfect time for skilled players such as Yogi Svejkovsky, Andrei Nikolishin and Sergei Gonchar to end their season-long slumps. All three are in line for expanded roles in Bondra's absence, as is Jeff Toms, who was recalled from Portland yesterday.
Gonchar scored his first goal of the season, Konowalchuk found the net on the power play and grinder James Black picked up the game-winning goal--all positive signs in the Capitals' 4-2 victory last night at MCI Center.
"Our line will probably see a lot of ice time," Konowalchuk said. "The last few games we generated a lot of chances, but we have to score some goals and we know we can do it. We definitely have to go out every night and at least chip in one a game with Bonzai out.
"Hopefully we'll have some balanced lines. Niko has been in a checking role, but I know he has offensive capabilities and he's going to get a bigger role and guys like Svejkovsky and Toms might get a bigger chance. Maybe it's time for them to help out, too, and hopefully we can come together as a team."
Toms played well in the minors after being sent down, scoring three goals and nine points in his first six games with the Pirates. Then he was sidelined three weeks with a hernia. He has skated for 10 days and played in two games before his recall and had 11 points in eight games in Portland. Last night he used his speed to create chances and hit the post with a quick wrist shot early in the game.
Normally, a hernia would sideline a player for at least six weeks, but doctors used a new procedure to help Toms, entering below his belly button and going in through his stomach, rather than going in through the lower abdominal area. The surgeons also used a mesh lining under Toms's skin, which precluded the use of stitches.
Reekie, Simon Are Ailing
Defenseman Joe Reekie (bruised foot) and left winger Chris Simon (neck sprain) missed the game with injuries. . . .
The Capitals are 12-0-1 in their last 13 meetings with the Islanders.