Tougher Capitals open training camp 'Comfort zone' wanted for scorers HOCKEY

September 10, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

Center Dale Hunter will be sidelined for the first 21 games of the season because of a late shot he delivered on Pierre Turgeon of the New York Islanders during the playoffs last spring, but the Washington Capitals spent the summer toughening up their lineup.

Today, the Capitals expect 64 players to report for physicals, off-ice testing and team photos. Sunday, they will begin on-ice scrimmage in preparation for a 10-game preseason schedule that leads up to Washington's season opener in Winnipeg Oct. 6.

"The league isn't cutting down on toughness," said coach Terry Murray. "Intimidation, hitting, corner work, it will always be there. You have to be able to compete in those situations and feel comfortable."

After watching the tapes of last season, Murray said he found hiteam was neither tough enough nor comfortable enough. When he watched replays of the playoff series with the Islanders, the same question kept popping up: Why didn't one of the Capitals score the winning goal in those three overtime games?

"Our play inside the division wasn't the same as outside," saiMurray, whose Capitals started last season 1-7 in the Patrick Division and wound up 13-22-2. "Outside our division we had 65 points and Pittsburgh had 66. Inside the division, they thrived and we stumbled. Intimidation was a part of it. It's a part of life. We hope we can achieve a bigger comfort zone with what we've done over the summer."

Centers Dave Poulin and Keith Acton and left wing Craig Berube are not the 50-goal scorers Capitals fans have been hoping for. That, of course, brings up the same question the Capitals faced last season after trading their leading goal scorer, Dino Ciccarelli: Who is going to score?

Last season it was the defense. The Capitals set an NHL recorwith three defensemen -- Sylvan Cote, Kevin Hatcher and Al Iafrate -- combining for 80 goals. But Murray now wants his defensemen to think defense first and his forwards to establish themselves as real scoring threats.

The plan is for Poulin, Acton and Berube to build a force field around leading scorer Peter Bondra (37 goals, 48 assists), Mike Ridley (26, 56), Dimitri Khristich (31, 35) and Michal Pivonka (21, 53) that will create a comfort zone in which they can work and score.

"We have to get our offense from our forwards," said Murraywho says he thinks Bondra, Khristich and Pivonka each can score at least 40 goals. "We've got to win in the playoffs. If it means our defensemen have to play better on the defensive side and give up a little offense, then that's what we have to do. I don't want our forwards to look to Iafrate and Hatcher all the time for scoring."

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