It's a fair question, I guess: why is Olie Kolzig going to play tonight (or in the next three weeks, for that matter) when the season is lost and he's coming off a somewhat-significant knee injury? The answer is twofold: because he can and because he needs to.
To begin with, the fact that the Caps are where they are in the standings should tell you all you need to know about Kolzig's knee - it's fine. The team wouldn't risk the health of any of their players (much less one of their two most important guys) for relatively meaningless games; if Olie's knee wasn't 100% ready, he wouldn't be playing. Period. One would have more reason to worry that the Caps were rushing him back too soon (or that Kolzig was pushing himself to come back too soon) if they were fighting for a playoff spot and needed his skill and leadership in the lineup. But with little on the line there's no incentive to hurry him back before he's as healthy as he's going to get. So let's put to rest the second-guessing of actual doctors who give clearances based on medical records and patient evaluations, okay? Only Bill Frist can make a diagnosis of a patient's condition without ever actually being in a room with that patient and without being a specialist in the relevant field of medicine, and I don't see him as one of my regular commentors.
Now, my second point might contradict that first point in some ways, but it's my blog so I can do that on occassion. Quite simply, the Caps need Kolzig to come back as soon as he's ready. Sure, some veterans on other teams would shut it down for the year in similar circumstances. But the young guys on the Caps need to see that no one - no one - takes games off when other guys are out there busting their respective asses (in theory) for the team. Pick your favorite "teamwork" cliché, because this is where it applies. The Caps have gotten a healthy dose of this type of leadership this year from guys like Chris Clark and Jamie Heward, and now it's time for Olie to do the same, and I'm certain that he's chomping at the bit to do so.
So it's off to Boston for Los Capitales, with their Vezina winner in goal and their Calder winner showing signs of the beginnings of a new hot streak. Hopefully the combination is enough to inspire the rest of their cohorts to their first win in a couple of weeks.
- Hart: Jiri Hudler (2G, including the game-winner, +2, 4 SOG)
- Ross: Fredrik Modin, Rick Nash,Scott Niedermayer (3 points each)
- Norris: Francois Beauchemin (2G, +2, 6 SOG, 5 hits)
- Vezina: Jocelyn Thibault (24-save shutout win)
- Richard: Jiri Hudler, Nikolai Zherdev, Francois Beauchemin (2G each)
- Calder: Jiri Hudler (see above)
- Aiken: Manny Malhotra (0 points, -3)