With Washington Capitals leading scorer Peter Bondra out for up to 10 days with a separated shoulder and Pat Peake, the team's No. 3 goal scorer, another week from getting clearance to play, right wing Keith Jones said yesterday that he's feeling the pressure.
"I've been feeling it for the last six or seven games," said Jones, who has five goals but none in the last six games. "I think when Peter came back and was doing so well, we watched him, saw how much success he had with his speed and taking guys wide and some of us just stopped doing the things that we do well. It's one thing to know your capabilities and play within them, and it's another to step out of your boundaries.
"Then when Pat went down, that was a big blow to our power play at a time when we were adjusting to the return of Peter and Michal [Pivonka]."
Early in the season, when the power play was going reasonably well, Peake, the righty in the group, would be lined up at the far post and Jones or Dale Hunter would be on the other side. One way or the other, the power play worked 22 percent of the time.
"We knew where everyone was going to be," said Jones. "Then things changed and no one knew who was going to be out there with them on any shift and it takes more than just stepping out there with a group of guys to have a good shift. Still, we're professionals, and we have to adjust."
Peake has been out since Oct. 29 with a damaged thyroid cartilage. Three weeks later, his four power play goals still lead the Caps. In fact, those four goals represent a third of the team's production. Washington is 12-for-97 with the man advantage and 2-for-36 since Peake left the lineup. They are 21st overall in the NHL with a 12.5 percent success rate.
"I'm the only one on the power play with a right-hand shot," said Peake. "I'd either move up to support Joe [Juneau] or go to the post. . . . There were so many options. Now, there is a left-handed shot over there, and it's difficult to get it done like that."
It's difficult because the goalie has an easier time closing off the corner on the left-handed shooter.
Of course, when the Caps are on the power play these days, goalies have an easy time no matter what, because Washington seems determined not to shoot the puck at all.
"To me, it's becoming a situation of fright, where a player is just not confident in what's going to happen, so he's playing out there with a little bit of fear," said Capitals coach Jim Schoenfeld. "You play with fear, and it's like throwing sand into an automobile engine. You're just going to bum the whole thing out, and that's how we are."
Yesterday, Schoenfeld said the Capitals would continue to find ways to win despite the absence of Bondra, Peake and a potent power play.
"We should be and will be a better team with Peter and Michal, but it hasn't been that way yet," Schoenfeld said. "But there is a lot of hockey yet to be played . . . and no one is off the hook offensively. If we have to win games 1-0, that's what we'll do. But someone has to step up -- Juneau, Jones, Hunter, Miller, they can all step up their scoring."
NOTE: The Capitals have assigned center Jason Allison to their American Hockey League affiliate, Portland.