Youthful Jacks grateful for limited early schedule

October 04, 1991|By Nestor Aparicio | Nestor Aparicio,Evening Sun Staff

Every coach in professional sports will tell you that he wants his team "to get off to a quick start" the night before the season opener.

The only problem for coach Robbie Laird and the Skipjacks is that they'll have to take their time doing it.

The Jacks' October schedule has just nine games, six at home and all on weekends. In contrast, when the season is closing in March, the Jacks will play 15 games in the month, with eight on the road including the dreaded six-game swing through the Maritime Provinces.

But Laird, ever the optimist, likes to call that an advantage.

"We really haven't had a lot of time to work on our systems yet or to get any continuity with the forward lines," said Laird, who begins his second season with the Jacks in tonight's 7:35 opener at the Arena against the Hershey Bears (WITH-AM 1230). "This is still a bit of a training camp for us. We haven't covered all of the bases yet, especially with the new guys and the rookies."

And rookies and new faces are things that the Jacks' lineup will surely feature.

On defense Rob Leask, Wade Bartley and Chris Clarke will log time. Newcomers to the forward lines include rookies Steve Martell, Richie Walcott, Randy Pearce, Trevor Halverson, Harry Mews and Dave Morissette, with veterans Craig Duncanson, Simon Wheeldon and Brent Hughes coming in from the Winnipeg organization.

Laird has the unenviable task of paring his 23 skaters down to 16 before tonight's game.

Three players -- forwards Tim Taylor (knee) and Vic Gervais (shoulder) and defenseman Bobby Babcock (wrist) -- are expected to be scratched. Laird said he doesn't even know who the other four will be.

One thing is for certain -- Laird has decided to start Olaf Kolzig in goal tonight.

"Olaf has had a great training camp, as has Byron Dafoe, but Olaf warranted the start," Laird said. "Byron has had a touch of the flu most of the week."

The scoring thrust for the Jacks is expected to be considerable when the light-scoring history of the Washington Capitals' organization is taken into consideration.

Defense has always been in abundance, but this year Laird said he wants goals.

The first line of John Purves, Duncanson and Wheeldon have a combined 10 years of AHL and IHL experience, accounting for big offensive numbers.

"We have the potential to put a lot of points up as a line, but I think there are six or seven guys on this team who should score 30 goals in this league," said Duncanson, who had 50 points in 58 games with Moncton last season. "I think the offense is spread out pretty well over three lines. Anyone can score at any time."

The "quick start" theory will get its test tonight against the veteran Bears and again tomorrow in Glens Falls, N.Y., against the Adirondack Red Wings (7:30, WYST-AM 1010).

"It's important for us to win the early games, especially with so many being at home," Laird said.

"With so many young guys on this team, the light schedule is only going to help," Duncanson said.

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