Capitals down, not out, they say

THE BALTIMORE SUN

No one expected the Washington Capitals to be the best team in the National Hockey League this season, but no one expected them to be among the worst, either.

Wednesday night's 5-4 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden dropped Washington's record to 2-6-1. Only the Ottawa Senators have a worse record, 1-7-2.

The season is just nine games old, but it is a 48-game season, so when is it far enough into the season to say a team is a reflection of its record?

"I don't think Pittsburgh and Quebec have opened the champagne to start the Stanley Cup celebration," Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld said of the two hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. "And we're not in mourning. I don't group us with the losers of this league. We've got a long way to go. Until the season reaches a conclusion, we'll never be lumped with that group."

Capitals defenseman Joe Reekie scored his first goal of the season in Wednesday's game, but the outcome didn't allow him to enjoy it.

"We played a bad game in New York," he said. "We made mental errors and we let it slip through our hands. That game was ours to win.

"There are no excuses. And now it starts to get frustrating because as a team we have to start winning hockey games."

It is becoming a deep hole. That much Schoenfeld admits. "You seldom see anyone jump out of a hole," he said. "You have to claw your way out."

Yesterday, Schoenfeld worked on his team's conditioning and addressed the highs and lows of the most recent loss.

"We talked about the bad penalties and the discipline problem," Schoenfeld said. "We can't undo what we've done, but we can work to improve ourselves. Frustration is one of those wasted emotions, like fear, anger and worry.

"We're giving them tangible things to work on. The first thing is to outwork Boston [in the Caps' next game tomorrow afternoon] and to not repeat the mental mistakes. If we think with all our heart about doing that, there won't be any time for frustration, fear or worry."

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