Less than 12 hours after the Washington Capitals had held on for a 6-5 NHL opening night victory against the Maple Leafs in Toronto, Caps coach Terry Murray had his team on the ice working on new line formations in preparation for tomorrow's home opener against the New York Rangers.
"We came away happy with the win," Murray said. "But during the game, I had some thoughts and I tried a few things today that came from down here, in my gut. I'm just searching for the chemistry that can really happen and be good."
With that in mind, Murray put Reggie Savage on a line with left wing Kelly Miller and center Mike Ridley. That move shifted newcomer Pat Elynuik to the Bob Carpenter/Mark Hunter line.
"I haven't had a chance to see Elynuik, because he has only just arrived," explained Murray. "I want to see what can happen with him there and with Reggie on the Miller/Ridley line. Reggie likes to go to the net pretty well away from the puck and that could work out well with Ridley and Miller.
"I came away [from the opener] maybe just wanting more from each of the lines and by making these changes we'll see what happens."
The Caps scored six goals against the inspired Maple Leafs, but none were scored by the team's first two lines.
The goals came from line three (Todd Krygier, Michal Pivonka and Peter Bondra), line four (Alan May) and from the defensive pairing of Calle Johansson and Kevin Hatcher.
The line that performed best was the one from which the least was expected. Left wing Paul MacDermid, center Kevin Miller and right wing May compose the Caps' fourth line.
"They scored the first goal of the game and they gave me what I needed," Murray said. "They gave me some hard work, forechecking, some good hits and every one of those guys are flexible enough to move into another line. I'd feel very comfortable moving any one of them into any of the other three lines during a game."
But in Toronto the game was incredibly close from beginning to end, so Murray left things as they were and made a mental note.
"On any given night they could get hot as a group," he said.
Murray said he also was pleased with the defensive tandem of Jason Woolley and Brad Schlegel, who got experience playing together on the Canadian national team.
Overall, the game flowed well in the coach's view, but he emphasized the Caps are going to have to get better when in control of the puck and take more responsibility away from it.
"The big part of our problem is that we think we can do a lot one-on-one," Murray said after the game. "That leads to turnovers. We were fortunate to have Don [Beaupre] in the net to keep us in it."
Murray also wants to see more intensity tomorrow, pointing out the Caps only earned four power plays.
"Toronto had seven power plays and we had four and that can be an indicator of hard work," Murray said. "The way things are today, hard work can be the difference. So I'd like to be on the other side of that."
NOTES: The only player missing from practice was Carpenter. He was fine after Tuesday's game, but felt back spasms when he arrived at practice yesterday. "He tightened up while sitting around here," Murray said. "I sent him to be checked out, but I don't think there is any reason to think he won't be ready for Friday. He had these muscle spasms during preseason in Ottawa and they cleared themselves up."
The Skipjacks made three player moves yesterday. Right wings Steve Martell and Trevor Duhaime were assigned to Hampton Roads of the East Coast Hockey League. However, Duhaime, the Caps' ninth choice in the 1991 entry draft, did not report. Defenseman Eric Lavigne was sent back to his junior club, Hull in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.