Peter Bondra and Pat Peake worked on the ice for more than a half-hour after the rest of the Washington Capitals had called it a day. Together, they made an odd pair.
Bondra, who broke his thumb two weeks ago, was trying to get a strong-enough grip on his stick that would enable him to return to the lineup, possibly as early as tonight against the Ottawa Senators.
And Peake, a rookie center who has been in what he calls "le maison bowwow" -- the doghouse -- for the past week, is trying to work his way back into the good graces of coach Terry Murray.
If Bondra is ready tonight, it could mean that Peake will miss his hTC third straight game.
"I wish there will be some magic in my hand [tonight]" Bondra said. "My thumb is stiff, but every day it is feeling better and better. I don't want to say, 'No, I cannot go.' But right now, I can't say, 'Yes.' Sometimes, over these last two weeks, I've wanted to jump from the stands onto the ice to make a play. You look, you see something you could do. It is hard to be on the sidelines."
The Capitals (13-15-2) can use Bondra and his proven goal scoring. A right wing, he had 11 goals and five assists in 22 games before being forced out of the lineup when his hand was slashed in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 26.
If Bondra does play, then Alan May, who has three assists in three games since returning from a broken hand, will move from the first to the second line, which eventually will force Murray to decide whether to sit out Kevin Kaminski or Steve Konowalchuk.
Peake, whom the Capitals had hoped would continue the goal-scoring prowess he had shown in juniors, has been benched since Dec. 9, when he got caught up in trying to pry the puck loose in the Capitals' own zone in Philadelphia and was burned for a goal.
"He's been sending me a message," Peake said of Murray's decision to bench him since that shift. "He knows a lot more about the game than I do. He's telling me that I have to work on my defensive play and my work ethic has to pick up a little bit. He got his point across. In Philly we were playing tough and got caught up in our own zone. We can't let that happen, and now I know that. I now also know all about the hot dogs in Montreal and Quebec."
Murray said that if Bondra comes to him tonight and says he is ready, he will play; that would keep Peake off the ice.
If Bondra isn't ready, Peake's status is uncertain.
"If Pat's going to be a player on our team and contribute, he has to play on the top three lines, because I'm happy with our fourth-line guys and the job they do," Murray said. "Sometimes the expectations of a young guy aren't high enough for himself.
"Maybe they're too high from management and coaches, but not high enough from the player. If he's going to improve, it's a matter of going out and working hard, not just in the lineup, but at practice. Showing intensity in the game and in practice. That's the message."
* Don Beaupre is expected to be in goal tonight, a decision fellow goalie Rick Tabaracci says is a good one.
"Donnie deserves to start," said Tabaracci, who has been pulled in the second period of each of his past two starts.
"When you're playing well, you're going to play more. This isn't a situation where one guy can't play. But, I'm anxious to get back in there and set things right."
NOTES: After Washington's 5-3 loss at Quebec on Monday, LW Craig Berube suggested that players on the team who "do not want to play the way we have to play to win should be weeded out or ask for a trade." Berube was hoping to light a fire under his teammates. Yesterday, when he walked into the locker room at the Piney Orchard practice facility, an area in front of his locker had been outlined with white tape and the words "Oil Can" printed in front of it. "At least they did something," Berube said, smiling. "It was funny. I liked it." . . . D Shawn Anderson, who was put on waivers Tuesday, practiced with the team yesterday. GM David Poile said he may not know any more about Anderson's status until noon today. Another team has until then to claim him. If no one does, the Caps can send Anderson to AHL Portland.