Washington Capitals goaltender Olie Kolzig is questionable, at best, for this weekend's home-and-home series against the New Jersey Devils after tweaking a nagging groin muscle strain yesterday during practice.
Any extended absence for Kolzig would be a huge blow to the Capitals. The veteran has often been the club's best player, and his steady play in net is largely responsible for the team's six victories.
Only one goalie -- Florida's Roberto Luongo -- has faced more than the 446 shots Kolzig has seen this season.
The first hint that Kolzig was hurting came Monday, when the veteran skated slowly off the ice before practice ended. Then in Toronto on Tuesday night, Kolzig winced after making a save in the second period and later was pulled from the game.
Team officials declined to divulge the severity of Kolzig's injury.
Backup Brent Johnson is expected to make his third start today, when the Capitals host the Devils at 1 p.m. Johnson is 0-2-0 with a 6.34 goals against average.
Green Off to Hershey
Rookie defenseman Mike Green was reassigned to Hershey (Pa.) of the American Hockey League yesterday, clearing the way for Ivan Majesky to make his long awaited debut.
Majesky, who has not played competitive hockey since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament while representing his native Slovakia during the World Championships in May, was paired with Shaone Morrisonn yesterday at Piney Orchard Ice Arena.
"The knee looks good, the doctor said it's fine," Majesky said. "Now it's time to see how I play in the game."
When Majesky was signed as a free agent to a one-year, $800,000 contract in August, Capitals' brass believed he would be ready for training camp. But the 29-year-old's recovery from surgery on his right knee took longer than expected, and he failed his pre-camp physical examination. As a result, he has not been paid by the Capitals during his rehabilitation.
"He's the one player, other than Brendan Witt, who has played a lot of minutes in the NHL for an extended amount of time," Coach Glen Hanlon said. "He's coming off knee surgery and rehab, so we'll wait and see."
Green's ice time, meantime, has declined in each of the Capitals' past four games, reaching a low of 7 minutes 7 seconds Tuesday during the 6-4 loss at Toronto. During his month-long stay in Washington (he was recalled from Hershey on Oct. 11), Green showed glimpses of the offensive skills that made him a first-round draft pick in 2004, but he occasionally looked overwhelmed in his own end. The 20-year-old was scoreless in 11 games and had a plus-minus rating of minus-8.
"He's definitely an NHL defenseman and he's done everything we've asked of him," Capitals Captain Jeff Halpern said. "Going to Hershey is going to allow him to play more minutes and develop a little more."
"Right now, it's better for everyone if he gets more time in more situations," Halpern added. "I hope he's back soon because we like having him around."
Cassels a Likely Scratch
Center Andrew Cassels did not have a spot on any of Hanlon's four forward lines yesterday, increasing the likelihood that the veteran will be a healthy scratch for the fourth consecutive game today. The 36-year-old has a goal and two assists in 12 games.
"Sometimes, if we play this game long enough, we're going to have high periods and low periods," Hanlon said. "Andrew is going to be fine."