Laird sees Jacks' roster firming up nicely


New Skipjacks coach Robbie Laird isn't quite ready to break camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., for the start of his career in the AHL.

"There are still a lot of things that could happen here," Laird said after his "rookie" team defeated the Montreal Canadiens' rookie squad 5-4, after getting a 2-2 tie on Monday. "[Washington coach] Terry [Murray] took 26 players with him on the trip and I expect to get some of those players back."

The Capitals begin a three-game trip tonight in Hartford, Conn. After the game, they charter to Orlando, Fla., to face the Buffalo Sabres, before returning to the Capital Centre Saturday night for a grudge match with the Boston Bruins, who ousted them from the Stanley Sup playoffs in May.

Meanwhile, Laird will remain in Lake Placid with a team of 24 players, most of whom should be on the Jacks' roster this season.

"I have Steve Seftel, Tyler Larter, Alfie Turcotte and John Purves, who all still have a shot with the Caps, but for the most part it's rookies and guys targeted for Baltimore," Laird said. "Those experienced guys will get a chance to skate with the Caps when they return."

On defense, the only veteran remaining with the Jacks is Mark Ferner, who has been out with a sore wrist. The biggest surprise of the camp has been the play of tough-guy Bobby Babcock, who Laird said has an outside shot of making the Caps.

"There is a position open and right now there's a good battle going on for it," Laird said. "Babcock, Kent Paynter, Chris Felix, Bill Houlder and Ferner, once he's healthy, will all get a chance."

As for the goalies, Byron Dafoe played both games against the Canadiens because Shawn Simpson had a slight groin pull. Simpson is expected to play both games against the Quebec Nordiques' rookies tonight and tomorrow. Jim Hrivnak and Mike Liut are working with the Capitals through the weekend, while rookie Olaf Kolzig is out with a sore shoulder.

Don Beaupre and Kevin Hatcher still have not appeared at camp. Beaupre is an unsigned free agent and Hatcher is a holdout.

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