The Washington Capitals and Baltimore Skipjacks are expected to announce later this week, probably Friday night at the Skipjacks' final regular-season home game, a continuation of their working agreement.
Three years ago, the Capitals and Skipjacks began working together, with Washington handling the on-ice operation of the American Hockey League franchise, assigning the players, coaches, trainers and other on-ice personnel. The Skipjacks are concerned with the off-ice operation -- ticket sales, promotions, radio coverage and the rest.
"We are very close to having everything set," said Capitals general manager David Poile. "There are only a few minor details to be worked out. I have to talk to [Skipjacks owner] Tom Ebright again. We'll be making an announcement later in the week."
Poile said he and the rest of the Capitals organization are pleased with arrangement.
"The relationship with Baltimore has been very good for us," he said. "We are looking to solidify our position in the Washington-Baltimore corridor, which we feel still has untapped hockey potential. We are looking to develop the area to its fullest."
Ebright, who saved hockey in Baltimore four years ago, when the team operated as an independent after the Pittsburgh Penguins shifted their top farm club to Muskegon, Mich., of the International Hockey League, said he, too, is happy.
"The new agreement [which is reported to be for two years, instead of one] is better than before," he said. "I couldn't be more pleased. We've made great progress over the years, and I think our arrangement has the potential to be the finest major-minor relationship in all of hockey."
The agreement has provided the National Hockey League club with players on short notice and given Baltimore fans Calder Cup playoff teams the past two seasons. A total of 19 players $H performed for both clubs this season, and if goalies Olaf Kolzig and Shawn Simpson, who dressed and backed up Washington goaltenders but did not play are counted, the figure would be 21.
... The Skipjacks' final game on radio station WLIF (1300 AM) will be tomorrow night from Utica, N.Y.
"WLIF management has announced a programming decision that has necessitated the change to 100 percent simulcasting on both AM and FM," the station said in a prepared statement.
Friday's game at the Baltimore Arena and Saturday's game against the Capital District Islanders in Troy, N.Y, will be carried on WITH (1230 AM). Arrangements for the final regular-season game, Sunday in Binghamton, N.Y., and the Skipjacks' playoff games are being worked out.
The move will not affect broadcaster Ken Albert, who is under contract to the hockey team and not to the station.
... Beginning next preseason, the Capitals and Skipjacks will have a new facility for training camp and regular-season practices.
The complex is in Odenton, off routes 3 and 301, and is equidistant from Washington and Baltimore. The clubs expect construction to be finished by July.
"We'll each have a dressing room, and we plan to hold all of our regular-season practices for both teams there next season," Poile said. "It is conceivable that we would use the Capital Centre and Baltimore Arena for practice only on game days for morning skates."
The facility is being built by The KMS Group, owned by Peter Kirk; the Capitals; and Anne Arundel County.
Kirk, who owns part of the Frederick Keys and Hagerstown Suns, is trying to get a minor-league baseball franchise for the Annapolis-Bowie area.
... The Skipjacks, who will finish either second or third in the Southern Division of the AHL, will begin their Calder Cup playoffs against the Binghamton Rangers in Binghamton, N.Y., April 5 and 6. The next two games will be at the Baltimore Arena, April 11-13, and, if necessary, the team will return to Binghamton, April FTC 17, back to Baltimore, April 19, and back to Binghamton, April 20.
The Capitals, seeking their ninth consecutive playoff appearance, have four games remaining. New Jersey also has four, and Philadelphia has three. New Jersey has 76 points, one fewer than the Capitals, and Philadelphia has 75. Should the Capitals win three games, the Flyers cannot catch them.
The two key games for the Capitals will be Thursday against the Flyers at The Spectrum in Philadelphia and Saturday against the Devils at the Capital Centre.
Opponent: Buffalo Sabres
Site: Capital Centre, Landover, 7:35 p.m.
Radio: WCAO (600 AM), WMAL (630 AM)
Tickets: Approximately 2,500 remain
Outlook: The Capitals are 7-2-2 in the past 11 games. The Sabres have clinched a playoff spot in the Adams Division and lead the series with Washington, 1-0. The Capitals will be without D Neil Sheehy (back) and D Chris Felix (ankle), but RW Dino Ciccarelli (pulled groin muscle) could return. RW Don Audette (knee) is out, and RW Rick Vaive (flu), D Doug Bodger (shoulder) and G Daren Puppa (pulled groin muscle) are day-to-day.