Just 10 days ago, after Washington Capitals right wing John Kordic had pounded one of his players to the ice, Pittsburgh Penguins coach Bob Johnson asked: "Can anyone tell me what Kordic is the doing in the National Hockey League?"
Now it appears that Kordic, who is serving his second suspension for alcohol problems since Washington acquired him from the Toronto Maple Leafs Jan. 24, won't be in the NHL, at least for the rest of this year.
"John Kordic is finished for the year," said coach Terry Murray. "He has a big problem and needs help -- long-term professional help. The important thing as far as Kordic is concerned is that he get his life back in order. Right now hockey is just secondary to that."
Kordic, who was acquired as an "enforcer" for the Capitals, someone who would make the team tougher, did his bit on the ice as the Capitals went 5-1-1 in the games he was involved in. Kordic amassed a total of 101 penalties minutes in those seven games.
"I was brought here for one reason, and that's what I try to do," said Kordic just after he arrived. "Sure, I try to intimidate the other guys, and I don't care who knows it. Intimidation is part of the game."
Capitals general manager David Poile, who has suspended Kordic, 25, indefinitely and without pay, said the player will not be back this year.
"It is unrealistic to think that Kordic will play again this year," said Poile. "He has a very big problem, and we want to get him help. We want to help John Kordic and not even think about him playing hockey again until he gets his personal life straightened out."
"I think my career as a hockey player is just about finished," said Kordic. "And I don't want to say anything else right now."
Murray said no decision has yet been made on how Kordic will be replaced. "It's something that David [Poile] and I are going to have to discuss," said Murray. "Peter Bondra [shoulder], Reggie Savage [groin muscle] and Dimitri Khristich [hip] are getting better, and we'll have to see how near they are to playing again."
With Bondra and Khristich unable to return for tonight's game at the Capital Centre against the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings, the Capitals recalled right wing Jeff Greenlaw yesterday from the Baltimore Skipjacks, who don't play until Friday.
Meanwhile, the Skipjacks, once considered the class of the American Hockey League's Southern Division, have won only once in their past eight games and are only two points out of sixth place.
"We have too much talent on this club not to make the playoffs," said Greenlaw before being recalled. "We've had our problems with injuries and players being recalled by Washington, but we ++ still have enough talent to turn this thing around. We'll come out of this; we're too good a club not to."
"The key thing for us right now is to set our sights on making the playoffs," said defenseman Mark Ferner. "That's something that we can achieve, and it's the most important thing right now. We don't have to set any higher goals. We make the playoffs and everything else will take care of itself."
* Today is the trading deadline in the NHL and also the day that rosters must be set for the Stanley Cup playoffs and for the AHL's Calder Cup playoffs.
"I haven't been getting very many phone calls," said Poile. "And if the deadline was right now, I'd have to say that the Washington Capitals wouldn't be making any deals. But I guess I'll end up talking to everyone just to see who is available. You have to keep your eyes and ears open at this time of year."
* Goalie Bob Mason, who split his time last season between the Capitals and Skipjacks, is playing for the Vancouver Canucks. Sunday he allowed eight goals as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated Vancouver, 8-0.
Mason played 22 games with the Milwaukee Admirals of the International Hockey League before being called up by Vancouver.