Hughes still in race for Caps job

September 26, 1991|By Nestor Aparicio | Nestor Aparicio,Evening Sun Staff

It takes just one look at Brent Hughes' career summary to see that there are plenty of contradictions.

As the 25-year-old left wing sits on the cusp of making the Washington Capitals, one of 25 players who remain on the roster eight days before the opener against Philadelphia, perhaps his new club is confused as well.

Is he a scorer?

Well, he scored more than 20 goals in three consecutive AHL seasons with Winnipeg's farm team in Moncton. In fact, during the 1988-89 season, he amassed 34 goals and 34 assists in just 54 games for the Hawks.

Is he a goon?

There's a quick answer for that as well -- in that same '88-89 campaign Hughes also gathered 286 penalty minutes and 277 the following year in 65 games.

"I'm not the kind of guy whose game is shooting down the wing, freewheeling," said Hughes, who has had seven different trips into the NHL during the past four seasons, scoring four goals in 39 games. "Playing for a Smythe Division team, I don't think I really fit into that fast-paced style. Here, I think I can grind it out a little and work in the corners."

But does excellent AHL production translate into NHL points?

"I don't think they expect me to score a lot of goals here," said Hughes, who has two goals in three exhibition games with the Caps. "I really don't know what they expected when they traded for me. I'm sure, except for the scouts, they had only seen me play a handful of games."

Hughes, a native of British Columbia, was acquired on May 21 with forwards Simon Wheeldon and Craig Duncanson in exchange for Bob Joyce, Kent Paynter and

Tyler Larter.

Last season Hughes had 21 goals and 22 assists in 63 games but didn't make it into the NHL due to a fractured eye socket in November and knee surgery in March.

"They told me, and I think they told Craig and Simon as well, that we had a realistic chance of making the NHL," he said. "I think they just want the deal to be successful. They expect hard work from us."

Skipjacks coach Robbie Laird has been a fan of Hughes since the first day of training camp.

"He's been putting up the numbers, both in scrimmages and during exhibition games," Laird said. "He's still wearing a Capitals jersey so you'd have to give him a pretty decent chance at making the team."

Coach Terry Murray said more decisions about who will go where will be made after this weekend's three-in-three schedule that will see Buffalo at the Capital Centre tomorrow, Philadelphia at the Arena on Saturday and the Flyers again at the Spectrum on Sunday.

"It's possible that we could keep all of the players we have now through opening day," Murray said. "But we also don't want any of the players getting stale, sitting on the bench."

Hughes' stiffest competition at left wing will come from another tough group of muckers.

Kelly Miller, Dave Tippett, Jeff Greenlaw, Nick Kypreos and Randy Burridge remain with the Caps, although Miller and Greenlaw have played some of training camp on the opposite wing.

"I'm really not worried much about the names ahead of me," Hughes said. "All I can do is come to practice every day and play as hard as I can. If I do, I'll get my chance."

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