With his team 0-5 -- two games away from tying the club's all-time season-opening losing streak and four from their all-time opening winless streak -- general manager David Poile didn't try to hide the reason.
"We're obviously trying to put as much pressure as possible on the current roster," Poile said. "I want it made clear that no one is guaranteed a spot, game-to-game. I've always found depth a motivating factor, because the worst thing I can think of that you can do to a player is give him less ice time or take him out of the lineup altogether."
Konowalchuk and Peake, both 20, will suit up tonight, which means two other players won't. Yesterday, coach Terry Murray said he would decide after this morning's skate who will be in street clothes and who will be in goal against the Philadelphia Flyers -- veteran Don Beaupre or rookie Dafoe.
Each of the new arrivals is aware of the pressure on the Capitals to win and more than a little surprised they are being called on to help reverse a streak that is rivaling the 0-7 start of 1983-84, and the 0-8-1 start of 1975-76.
"In the preseason, we just dominated some of our games," said Dafoe, 22, who was 2-0-1 with a 3.10 goals-against average in preseason with Washington and has a 3-1-0 record and a 3.28 GAA with Portland. "I thought the way we played then would carry over. I saw part of the game against New York, and it was a little scary from a goaltender's point of view."
Against the New York Rangers, the Capitals gave up five goals on 48 shots. Beaupre was pulled after the first period -- the second time in two games the 32-year-old was lifted -- and rookie Olie Kolzig went in and stopped 36 of the next 38 shots.
Kolzig, who had edged Dafoe in a preseason battle for the backup goalie job after Rick Tabaracci suffered torn knee ligaments early in training camp, earned a start against Toronto on Wednesday. But in the first period of that game, while giving up the second goal of what turned into a 7-1 loss, Kolzig suffered a dislocated kneecap. He will be out three to six weeks.
Tabaracci said yesterday that he still is not comfortable getting down into a butterfly position and expects to be out one to two more weeks. And Beaupre, whose GAA dropped to 7.55 after giving up five goals to Toronto, said the team needs something to get it going.
"I'm not trying to dodge any responsibility," Beaupre said. "Hey, I've got the opportunity to be the hero or the goat every night. I know that. I also know I'm not playing well at all right now, but I think for the most part I haven't given up any deflating goals -- for the most part. But I haven't been able to get in position
to win for us, either.
"And you know changes are going to be made if you don't win. If they choose to play Byron, well that's not my decision. I can't do anything about it until I get my next start and then I have to play well enough to get the next start. So far I can't say I've done that."
Yesterday, Murray refused to blame the players, instead he shouldered it himself.
"If the game plan is the problem, well, it was my decision to go with it," Murray said. "I want to clean the slate. It's not the players' responsibility if it doesn't work. It's mine.
"We've gone to Plan B, and that's a more defensive plan -- and please don't laugh."
The scores haven't gotten any better since Murray said he wanted more defense Sunday in New Jersey, but opposing shots on goal, after zooming to 48 for the Rangers on Monday, were down to 28 in Toronto, and Murray said he saw signs of life.
And now he gets Konowalchuk, Peake and Dafoe, adding young legs and youthful enthusiasm to the mix.
Konowalchuk played 36 games with the Capitals last season, getting four goals and seven assists in a mostly defensive role.
The role might be different this time around, given he has shown some scoring ability in Portland while playing on a line with Peake. In four games he has seven goals and four assists, including two hat tricks, resulting in AHL Player of the Week honors in the first week of the season.
NOTES: Caps president Dick Patrick showed up before practice yesterday "to show his support," said Poile. . . . The Caps general manager said he continues to talk to many league teams about possible trades, "but it takes two to make a deal and right now, I'm the most interested party." He added part of the problem is that so much is wrong with the Caps. "As much of anything, it lies with each player playing better than he has," Poile said.
Opponent: Philadelphia Flyers
Site: USAir Arena, Landover
Tickets: 3,700 available
Radio: WMAL (630 AM)
Outlook: At 0-5, Washington has the worst record in the NHL. Tonight, the Capitals face the Flyers, who are off to a 3-1 start and are 3-0-1 in their past four visits to USAir Arena. The Flyers dominated the series last season, 5-1-1. Philadelphia is led by Eric Lindros, whose seven points tie him for fifth in the NHL in points, and Joseph Beranek, whose five goals tie him for second in the league. The Capitals will be without goalies Rick Tabaracci (knee ligaments) and Olie Kolzig (dislocated kneecap). Philadelphia lists RW Jim Cummins (slightly separated shoulder) and LW Claude Boivin (sprained left knee) as out.