No sooner did the veterans of the Washington Capitals step on and off the scales and roll up their sleeves for a blood-pressure check, when word was passed that several might be battling for jobs this season.
The word "battling" was used first by coach Terry Murray as he watched the vets arrive at the Piney Orchard Ice Arena yesterday after completing physical examinations. At the same time, he was keeping an eye on the farmhands hammering away at each other on the ice.
"There was a time when training camps were just to get in shape. There wasn't the pressure there is now," Murray said. "Numbers dictate there will be an extremely competitive atmosphere this camp.
"In other words, there'll probably be five or six guys looking to fill three spots. That means players won't be able to work their way into game shape slowly. They're going to have to be ready to go full-tilt in all the scrimmages and games."
The coach singled out several young players he expects will challenge for the varsity through the preseason and up to the season opener in Toronto on Oct. 7, most of them defensemen. Good thing.
The Caps had a potent offense last season, finishing second to the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in goals scored. Their back line, however, was a shadow of its former self, and captain Rod Langway is another year older.
On offense, top goal-scorer Dino Ciccarelli (38-3876) is gone, but added are Kevin Miller (20-2646), Bobby Carpenter (25-2348) and, possibly, Reggie Savage.
"I think Reggie has a real shot this time," Murray said of Savage, who scored 42 goals for the Skipjacks last year. "He's come in in great shape . . . and the two years in Baltimore did him a world of good."
The first full skating practice for the veterans is tomorrow, and the first preseason game will be against Buffalo in Norfolk, Va., on Friday.
The top attraction in the preseason will be a Sept. 26 doubleheader featuring the Caps against the Philadelphia Flyers and Skipjacks against the Hershey Bears at Hershey Arena.