Washington Capitals center Adam Oates has recovered from a poor start to become the team's most consistent offensive player. But even when he wasn't picking up points, he was winning big faceoffs. Oates has been among the NHL's top three in faceoff winning percentage all season and has helped the Capitals become the top faceoff team in the league.
Oates, who played in his 999th career game tonight in Edmonton, had just three assists in 10 games in October, but now leads the team with 26 points. Entering tonight, he had 21 points in his past 19 games. But Oates evaluates himself on nuances of the game as well, among them killing penalties and beating opponents on the draw. He has won about 60 percent of his faceoffs this season.
"I take a lot of pride in it," Oates said. "You want to have your coaches feel confident they can count on you, and I think that's a big part of penalty killing. If you win that first draw in your own end and get it out, you disrupt the power play and they might never get back in the zone.
"It's very big on special teams. It's very important to win that first draw and you want possession of the puck. When you have it, they don't and sometimes you can get on a bit of a roll and sometimes you struggle on faceoffs, but I've always taken pride in it."
Oates will play in his 1,000th game Wednesday in Vancouver, and the Capitals will honor him for that achievement at their next home game, Monday night vs. Chicago.
Forwards Jan Bulis (groin) and Peter Bondra (knee) are expected to play Monday when the Capitals host Chicago, their first meeting with the Blackhawks since a fight-filled preseason game Sept. 25. General Manager George McPhee struck then-Chicago coach Lorne Molleken after that game, resulting in a one-month suspension. . . . After Wednesday's game in Vancouver, the Capitals will be finished with all far-flung travel. They do not travel farther than Dallas for the duration of the season. . . .
The team is debating how to retire former captain Dale Hunter's No. 32. The banners hanging at MCI Center with the numbers of Yvon Labre and Rod Langway are done in the old red, white and blue/stars-and-stripes logo of the team--the uniform Hunter wore most of his career in Washington. However, the club has since changed its uniform and logo and expect to have another change in uniform style for the start of next season. . . . The Capitals opted not to purchase a new video editing system to be installed behind their bench at MCI Center after getting a bid for $500,000. They will speak with other companies, hoping to find someone to do the job cheaper.