When the Washington Capitals opened training camp last month, it was with the understanding that goalie Jim Carey, off his sensational performance of last season, was the No. 1 goalie in camp.
Even goalie Olie Kolzig, who started last night in Washington's final preseason game in Greensboro, N.C., against the Florida Panthers, said that was the view he took when he came to camp.
And even though it is still Kolzig's view, coach Jim Schoenfeld TTC says he has not decided who will start Saturday in the season opener against the St. Louis Blues at USAir Arena.
"The ideal situation would be to have two No. 1s," Schoenfeld said. "Right now, we have two real good goaltenders. And maybe they're both going to be No. 1s. I think Olie is a much better goaltender than people give him credit for. If you remember, he played pretty darn well, and we didn't score any goals for the kid.
"If this year is a different story and we get the goals we should score for him, then that's going to reflect in the win-loss column."
The Capitals are 2-5-2 in the preseason, and Kolzig has the two wins. Last year, He finished the regular season 2-8-2 with a .902 save percentage and a 2.49 goals-against average. He is 2-1-1, with a .912 save percentage and a 2.68 GAA.
Carey has not played as well. He finished last season 18-6-2 with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. After holding on for ties against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and the Panthers last night in relief of Kolzig, he is 0-2-2, with an .897 save percentage and a 2.84 GAA.
"I came into camp with the assumption that Jim is the No. 1 guy," said Kolzig, 25, whose knee seems recovered from the injury he incurred in the playoffs last spring. "It's his job to lose. I just want to make the coach's decision a little harder."
Over the past three years, ever since earning the starting job at the University of Wisconsin his freshman year, Carey has started just about every game for every team for which he has played. That was 26 games his freshman year, 40 of 41 games his sophomore year. Last year, he played 55 games in Portland before being called up to the Capitals, for whom he played 28, including 21 straight.
"It was three games a week," Carey said after practice yesterday. "During preseason, it's been three games in a month. That's a hard way to play. I felt good against Philadelphia, but it's hard to judge.
"I'm ready to start the season, that's for sure, but I don't have a clue how I'm going to be used. I'm not taking anything for granted. . . ."
General manager David Poile has a different perspective on the competition.
"I don't think who plays opening night is as important as both of them playing in a lot of games and helping us win a lot of games," said Poile. "I don't want to rely on just one guy, the way we had to last season."