Getting playing time puts edge on Derksen's game

February 12, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

Goalie Duane Derksen quickly sensed it after he rejoined the Skipjacks. His old teammates seemed to have more confidence in him.

"They said they noticed the difference in my game," Derksen said. "They felt I was a lot better."

More than two months of playing regularly in the low minors, with the Hampton Roads Admirals of the East Coast Hockey League, brought Derksen's game back to life.

He played two games with the Skipjacks last weekend, picking up a win and a loss, and probably will start one of the two coming games against the Hamilton Canucks, tonight's or Sunday night's. He and Byron Dafoe are expected to share playing time the rest of the season.

When the parent Washington Capitals sent Derksen to Hampton Roads on Nov. 29, he bore little resemblance to the goalie who was the Capitals' fourth draft choice in 1988. He was 24, buttressed by four years of college hockey at Wisconsin, but he was playing like the AHL rookie he was.

"I'm a slow picker-upper," Derksen said. "It was taking me awhile to adjust. When I did get a chance to play, I didn't play well."

And then came the crush of reality: "People in the organization told me I was really playing bad."

In 11 games with the Skipjacks before being sent to Hampton, Derksen had a 2-6-2 record and a 5.10 goals-against average. With the Admirals, he had a 7-5-2 record and a 3.86 goals-against average in 13 games.

"Duane looks now like the goaltender we drafted," said Skipjacks coach Barry Trotz. "I like what I see."

Derksen's rocky start in the AHL reminded Trotz of the difficulties Jim Hrivnak, now with the Capitals, encountered in his pro baptism with the Skipjacks in 1988. Just out of Merrimack (Mass.) College, Hrivnak had a 1-8-0 record and a 6.57 goals-against average in his first 10 pro games.

"Now he's in the NHL," Trotz said.

The time-honored way for a goalie to regain his confidence is to play, even if it is in the minors. Trotz cited the case of Mike Richter, an NHL All-Star last season who was sent by the New York Rangers to Binghamton a few weeks ago and muffled the Skipjacks twice.

"A goalie needs to feel assertive, almost cocky," Trotz said. "The Rangers wanted to get Richter in games. We wanted the same for Derksen. A goalie can't feel confident if all he's doing is backing up the No. 1."

NOTES: Four new players will be in uniform tonight for the Skipjacks. From the parent Washington Capitals' Hampton Roads Admirals farm club in the East Coast Hockey League, the Skipjacks got D Al MacIsaac and F Rod Taylor. From Wheeling (W. Va.) of the ECHL, they got F Darren Schwartz. And from West Palm Beach of the Sun Coast Hockey League, they got D John Blessman. The arrival of the four players compensates in part for the recent loss of injured Mike Boback (knee), Mark Hunter (fractured thumb) and Jeff Greenlaw (torn thumb ligament). Hunter and Boback, in particular, were key players. Last week, the Skipjacks lost Steve Konowalchuk, Reggie Savage and Jason Woolley, who were promoted to the Capitals. Earlier in the season, Keith Jones and Shawn Anderson were called up. . . . Trotz cut short practice yesterday because the Baltimore Arena ice was in poor condition after the Walt Disney on Ice show that ended Sunday. A 3 x 4-foot patch at one end of the rink was down to the cement. In several other smaller spots, cement was showing and several more were wet. Orange traffic cones and buckets were placed over the dangerous areas to warn the players.

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