The Washington Capitals' long-suffering power play appears finally to have righted itself. The Capitals scored on their man advantage last night, giving them at least one power-play goal in eight of their past 11 games. Their special teams unit has jumped from 28th in the NHL in power-play efficiency to 13th.
The most significant adjustment has come on the point, where Sergei Gonchar and Peter Bondra have received more passes and done a fine job of sending pucks to the net. Coach Bruce Cassidy has also evened the playing time between his top two units and altered his personnel, although Gonchar and Bondra often remain on the ice for all two minutes of a power play.
"About three weeks ago we decided we were going to have two units," Cassidy said. "And to our credit, it's not always easy taking some of your better players off the ice and you open yourself up for some second-guessing, but it's worked so far. It's allowed Gonchar and Peter to shoot more, Gonch more than anybody. He doesn't have to worry about getting it to a certain side of the ice; all he has to worry about is getting it to their goalie."
Washington's power play was often focused on the right side of the ice before, where Jaromir Jagr is stationed, but they are drawing more attention to the point now, which should eventually open up ice for Jagr and the forwards around the net.
Fourth-line winger Alex Henry, a converted defenseman, has quietly found his niche on the team, winning the enforcer job that previously belonged to Stephen Peat. Henry, acquired on waivers from Edmonton in October, continues to play hard, take on all comers and use his size to pound opponents. Peat, meantime, is back in Portland, Maine, for grooming in the minors after injuries limited his playing time over the last two seasons, which were split between Washington and Portland.
"It's turned out to be a nice situation," General Manager George McPhee said. "Peaty is getting anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes a game [in Portland] and the best thing we can do for Stephen Peat is to let him play, and if we need him here we'll get him here. But Alex has done a nice job and he is a little better overall player right now, and we'll never have a shortage of toughness here." . . .
The Capitals scratched defenseman Rick Berry and forward Andreas Salomonsson last night. . . . Carolina, already starved for goals, could lose leading scorer Rod Brind'Amour for the season pending the results of medical tests on his injured hand.