Capitals get reacquainted with idea of scoring goals Practice emphasizes offensive deficiency


The Washington Capitals shot into open nets. They shot into the net obstructed by a prone, frozen-in-position goalie. They shot with two-on-one and three-on-two advantages.

And the Capitals scored some goals. It was a refresher course, of sorts, to remind them what it feels like.

And then Washington coach Jim Schoenfeld gathered his players around him and gave a lecture.

"He told us there are no excuses," said right wing Keith Jones. "He told us there are no reasons for our lack of scoring. He told us just do it, to believe we can score and then just do it. He said play within the team system and score goals. It's the new thinking, the new high-octane offense, and I can't wait to get out there."

The Capitals will try to break out of their goal-scorning malaise tonight against the visiting San Jose Sharks. The Caps have produced just six goals in six games and were shut out, 3-0, Saturday in Pittsburgh.

The Sharks have eight points and are tied for the worst record in the league. But Sunday, San Jose beat the potent Chicago Black hawks, 3-2, and after having made trades that have brought them goalie Chris Terreri, forwards Own Nolan, Ray Sheppard and Craig Janney and defenseman Doug Bodger, the Sharks appear to be coming together.

"Perfect," said Schoenfeld, smiling ruefully. "They say timing is everything, right?"

Perhaps. Certainly the time was ripe for a little pep talk. The Capitals have gone from 8-3 to 9-9-1. They could use some well-timed fine tuning.

"The thing that worries me most," Schoenfeld said. "is not that our power play isn't working. I know that will correct itself and we'll be among the top third in the league by the end of the season. What worries me is that my guys are making excuses. Rather than saying, 'I've been out there on the power play for a minute and I'm not getting the job done,' they're alibiing it. It's the lack of accepting the responsibility for it that bothers me."

But Schoenfeld must have gotten that message across yesterday, because after practice no one was making excuses.

Jones was spouting the new attitude, promising to do his share.

Rookies Stefan Ustorf and Martin Gendron and veteran Steve Konowalchuk were making plans to shoot the puck, drive the net and get some rebounds.

Joe Juneau, who was in the coach's doghouse during and after Saturday's loss, brushed off the situation and seemed committed to doing whatever it takes.

"Coach was upset because we lost," Juneau said. 'We all were. He wants us to believe in ourselves. And, I admit, I had lost confidence in myself. I had an open net the other night and I should have hit it. You shouldn't think about it at all. But I got the puck and I simply started shaking. I thought I'd miss and I ended up missing."

Juneau was moved to wing yesterday on a line with Mike Eagles and Michal Pivonka.

"I'll do whatever it takes," he said. "If he wants to move me to wing, I'll play wing. We just need I'm going to start making good plays. I've been forcing them. We just have to get something to work and then we'll be all right."

Yesterday, after an extended practice session, Schoenfeld left his players on the ice to shoot 100 pucks each into the net.

"I want them to think, 'I am a goal scorer. I am going to shoot and the puck will go into the net,' " Schoenfeld said. "I want all of them to consider the first option of offense -- to shoot the puck. For some of our guys, it's a last resort."

Capitals tonight

Opponent: San Jose Sharks

Site: USAir Arena, Landover

Time: 7:30

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WTEM (570 AM)

Outlook: The Capitals say their power-play unit -- hitting an anemic 10.8 percent -- is better than its 25th-place NHL ranking. They'll get a good chance to prove it against the Sharks, whose penalty-killing unit is ranked 25th, effective 74.3 percent of the time. The Caps, who got good performances from G Jim Carey over the weekend, are expected to start him (7-6-1, 2.62 GAA) tonight. Caps coach Jim Schoenfeld said RW Peter Bondra (separated shoulder) would not be ready tonight. C Pat Peake (thyroid cartilage) is out.

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