In his second NHL season, Ben Clymer, then a defenseman with Tampa Bay, was persuaded by former Lightning general manager Rick Dudley to try playing forward.

That was in 2000, back when hulking defensemen were en vogue, and smaller ones, such as Clymer, sometimes found themselves looking for work. Clymer chose to stay employed.

But today the game is different -- more open -- thanks to new rules that emphasize offense. The dramatic change has put greater demand on defensemen who are swift skaters and precise passers.

Clymer, a 6-foot-1, 199-pound Minnesota native, will return -- for the second time this season -- to his natural position tonight when the Capitals face the Buffalo Sabres in Rochester, N.Y. If the 27-year-old performs well, the move might become permanent this time.

"There will be an adjustment period, but it's something I want to try to do and help this team get better," Clymer said. "Bottom line is winning. It really doesn't matter as long as you do your part to win games. Wherever [Coach Glen Hanlon] thinks I can contribute most, that's where I'll be.

"The new rules have kind of changed the prototypical [defenseman] in this league. It's advantageous for someone who can skate and move the puck versus in the past where [defenseman] was getting bigger and bigger, clutch and grab style."

Hanlon said Clymer's versatility is a bonus in today's salary cap NHL.

"He give us the flexibility to do some things with our lineup, by him being able to play both defense and forward," Hanlon said. "He's got an unselfish personality. He's got some speed and one year he scored 14 goals, too. So there's some ability to shoot the puck and score."

Clymer was a late scratch from the lineup Saturday because of a strained groin muscle, but said after yesterday's practice at Piney Orchard that he's ready to play.

Saturday's Game Postponed

The Capitals' game against the Panthers on Saturday at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., has been postponed because of Hurricane Wilma, which damaged the building when it roared across South Florida on Monday. A makeup date was not announced. The Panthers' game last Saturday against Ottawa was postponed until Dec. 5.

The storm has also put defenseman Brendan Witt's status for tonight's game in doubt. The veteran defenseman missed his second consecutive practice while tending to his family and South Florida house, which also suffered damage.

"We told him to do what's best for his family," General Manager George McPhee said. "We just hope everything is okay."

Muir Expected to Return

Defenseman Bryan Muir, who has not played since Oct. 12 because of a strained groin muscle, is expected to return to the lineup tonight. In yesterday's practice, he skated alongside Jamie Heward on the top power play unit, which also included forwards Alex Ovechkin, Andrew Cassels and Jeff Friesen. Jeff Halpern also saw time with the unit. The Capitals spent most of yesterday's 11/2-hour practice session working on special teams. . . .

Center Brooks Laich was recalled from Hershey (Pa.) of the AHL and will take the roster spot of winger Boyd Gordon, who was re-assigned to the Bears. Laich had a pair of two-goal games for the Bears last weekend; Gordon was scoreless in nine games with the Capitals. . . .

Defenseman Nolan Yonkman rejoined the Capitals on Monday from a two-game conditioning stint in Hershey. "I had to play some hockey," said Yonkman, who had averaged just 6 minutes 5 seconds of ice time in the three Capitals' games for which he was in uniform. "They want me to be a steady defenseman in this league, and whatever it takes to get there, I am willing to do." . . .

Rochester's Blue Cross Arena will host an NHL game for the second consecutive season tonight. The Sabres faced New Jersey there on Nov. 12, 2003, in front of a sellout crowd of 11,146. The Rochester Americans are the minor league affiliate of the Sabres, who are hoping to attract fans from the Rochester area to their games in Buffalo.

Ben Clymer, who was converted into a forward five years ago with Tampa Bay, has returned to defense to provide the Capitals with a versatile element.