The first week of training camp is no time to be making fina decisions, but Washington Capitals coach Terry Murray has made his intentions clear about the team's otherwise muddled -- and crowded -- goalie situation.
If Jim Hrivnak's play during the four-week training camp merits an NHL jersey, Murray said he would have no qualms about keeping him along with Don Beaupre and Mike Liut to form a rare three-man platoon system for the Caps.
"I think Jim Hrivnak has his mind set on playing for the Capitals," Murray said this week during a break in workouts at Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton. "This is what training camp is all about -- competition. If he plays well and keeping three goalies becomes necessary, we'll do it."
Coming off a stellar season with a 2.64 goals-against average, Beaupre, who turns 30 on Sept. 19, said that Murray expects him to be ready for 50 to 55 games.
Liut, who will be 36 in January, has a big contract (figure $500,000) for the coming season and looks like the Caps' insurance policy for the injury-prone Beaupre.
Hrivnak, 23, has played well for the Skipjacks the past two seasons (20 wins both years, overall 3.15 GAA) and also has filled in admirably for the Caps in 20 games (3.57 GAA). In a shutout in Detroit last year he looked all but invincible, but an injury the following week landed him in Baltimore to stay for the season.
"All I can do is play well and hope they give me a chance," Hrivnak said. "I've worked out all summer and I'm in the best shape I've been in. I just have to prove I'm ready."
Perhaps another sticking point is that Beaupre is unhappy with his current contract, which is entering its option year. Beaupre sat out some of training camp last year when the Caps came in with a late offer to keep him.
"Right now I'm here to play and play well," said Beaupre, whose contract terms are unknown. "Based on what I've done here I think I deserve a better deal, but we'll see how it goes."
Liut, a 13-year veteran, said he's seen three-man goalie corps before and they rarely work.
"It's very difficult," Liut said. "But it might be the smart thing to do in this case, with the history of injuries here. It's been my experience that these things work themselves out. If all three aren't getting proper playing time, things will change. You can't go into a season where every week there is a tryout to see who will play."
Murray said Hrivnak could see some duty for the Skipjacks, who expect to have 1989 first-round draft pick Olaf Kolzig as the No. 1 if Hrivnak goes with the Caps.
"The important thing is for Jimmy is to get ice time," Murray said. "That was the reason for him being in Baltimore for the past two years. It's one thing to practice and work on conditioning, but there's no substitution for playing the game."