Rick Tabaracci had a rag and was shining his new helmet, the one he'll get to wear tonight when he starts in goal for the Washington Capitals.
"I've waited so long," said Tabaracci, who is getting his first start of the season. "Training camp, the lockout, then I came so close to playing in Quebec and broke my finger. But now everything is good. My finger is healed. The last couple of days I've been able to handle the stick and make the rebounds."
Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld gave his standard response when asked why he has decided to start Tabaracci tonight over Olie Kolzig, who has played well in each game so far this season despite the team's 1-3-1 record.
"We think we can win with Tabby," Schoenfeld said, and then elaborated by saying Tabaracci's quickness and agility matches well against Buffalo, a team that has good puck movement.
Caps center Joe Juneau (hip flexor) skated for 20 minutes before practice yesterday. He had some slight tenderness, but otherwise felt all right. Schoenfeld said the real test is today, when it will be determined how sore he is from yesterday's activity. Defenseman Ken Klee (separated shoulder) also skated briefly.
Sticks for St. Mary's
Caps defenseman Sylvain Cote delivered five dozen of his hockey sticks to the St. Mary's High School team in Annapolis yesterday. Cote has been working as a volunteer coach with the team when time permits. Yesterday, he said he also will deliver a couple of dozen hockey sweaters to the team in the next few days.
Opponent: Buffalo Sabres
Site: USAir Arena
TV/Radio: HTS/WMAL (630 AM)
Outlook: The Capitals (1-3-1) need to make a move. They are tied for last in the Atlantic Division and next to last in the 14-team Eastern Conference, in which the top eight teams make the playoffs. Washington has been off for three days while Buffalo is in the midst of a four-game road trip, their longest of the season. They have been on the road for six of their first eight games and lost at New Jersey, 2-1, on Tuesday night. Sabres C Pat LaFontaine (recovering from December 1993 knee surgery) is out and D Richard Smehlik (shoulder bruise) is questionable. Washington reports C Joe Juneau (hip flexor) and D Ken Klee (separated shoulder) are out.