Three's company as Caps ready for season opener

January 16, 1995|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

At the moment, the Washington Capitals are in the familiar position of having three goaltenders, which may be one too many.

"But we're not going to eliminate one of our guys for convenience," said Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld. "If someone calls and wants to make a deal, that's different. But, other than that, we're going to have to let it work itself out."

If the regular season had started when it was originally scheduled, on Oct. 1 in Toronto, the Capitals would have gone into the season with veteran Don Beaupre the No. 1 goalie and Olie Kolzig, who has played 10 NHL games, No. 2.

At that point, Rick Tabaracci would have been No. 3.

Now, with the season opener in Hartford six days away, they are all back on equal footing, rotating in and out of scrimmages at the Piney Orchard Ice Rink, trying to make an early impression.

"There isn't too much pressure the first couple days, because we're all just going out to play and see how our conditioning is," Beaupre said. "But even though it's been 3 1/2 months, I feel comfortable that I'll come back and play well.

"The question is, is a week enough time to get ready? It's a new situation, and you have to adjust to a shortened camp. I think we'll just all have to see how things unfold."

That pretty well defines Schoenfeld's approach.

"The goalie situation will work itself out," he said. "Right now, there isn't enough . . . evidence, if that's the right word."

Each goalie offers something different: Beaupre the experience of a veteran; Kolzig, 6 feet 3, who has "ZILLA," as in Godzilla, across the back of his helmet, brings intimidation and covers most of the goal mouth; and Tabaracci possesses great quickness.

Beaupre, 33, impressed Schoenfeld with a strong performance during last season's playoffs, leading the Caps to an upset of Pittsburgh. He was 4-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average in that series and 5-2 overall in the postseason.

Kolzig, 24, who was 0-3-0 with a 5.36 with the Caps in 1993-94, spent most of the season with the Portland Pirates, going 16-8-5 and winning the American Hockey League's Calder Cup and the MVP award.

He turned in a strong preseason performance with Washington last fall and said he is pleased to have another opportunity.

"I've yet to prove myself in the NHL," Kolzig said. "You've always got to challenge yourself, and I'm looking forward to this opportunity as a challenge.

"I'm sure Shoney [Schoenfeld] is going to use all three of us for a little while because there are so many games. We'll see what happens in the first couple weeks."

Tabaracci, 26, came to the Caps in March 1993 and at the start of the 1993-94 season was given the opportunity to win the No. 1 position. For a while, he seemed about to do it.

But then came three knee injuries that cost him 28 games. When he was healthy, Tabaracci recorded career bests in games played (32), wins (13) and goals-against (3.08).

When training camp began last September, he, Beaupre and Kolzig were shooting for the No. 1 spot. But Tabaracci suffered a groin injury, forcing him out for three days and making Schoenfeld change his planned preseason rotation.

"I thought I had a good camp, but I only got two games," Tabaracci said. "But in that camp, I felt better than I'd felt in years."

Schoenfeld said injuries will not be held against Tabaracci or anyone else.

"We know we have three NHL goalies," Schoenfeld said. "What's unclear and won't be clear for a while is who will emerge as No. 1."

NOTES: Last night, Capitals general manager David Poile said that he had talked to defenseman Brendan Witt's agent, Mark Hall. "We're a long way away from getting a deal done by noon [today]," Poile said. The Caps and Witt, the team's 1993 No. 1 draft choice, must reach a deal by noon or wait until his junior team finishes its season. Poile said Hall "knows where to reach me." . . . The Caps practice at 10 a.m. each day this week at Piney Orchard in Odenton.

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