Where does the NHL's most prolific goal-scorer of recent years go when he has a day off?
To the ice rink, believe it or not. On a sultry Sunday afternoon when most of his teammates were recuperating from Saturday night's 2-0 victory in Buffalo, Peter Bondra took his family to the Washington Capitals' training facility for some leisurely quality time on skates.Bondra also spoke to some of the 20 or so fans who hadn't received word that practice was canceled. The conversation, naturally, turned quickly to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night, when the Capitals can clinch their first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
"It's going to take a lot of effort to finish the job," Bondra said. "This is really big for the team and the players. We've never been this far before."
Bondra was loose, but not overconfident. While he and his teammates are winning praise for throwing Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek off his game, the Slovak Bondra is well aware of what his Czech countryman can do to a 3-1 series lead.
"He can always come back," Bondra said of Hasek, who led the Czech Republic to the gold medal at the Winter Olympics. "He can steal a game or two - or three. It's still not over yet."
In Buffalo, the mood was just as relaxed. The Sabres' Game 4 night appeared to unload every bit of pressure the team has felt this postseason, and practice was as upbeat as it's been in some time.
Even Hasek got into the act, wearing a homemade-designed shirt with three words on the back: "Kramer" and "Swiss cheese."
Kramer, a Seinfeld reference, was an unwelcome nickname Hasek's teammates gave him last year. Swiss cheese, of course, referred to the two goals he allowed Saturday night - especially the 70-footer from Joe Juneau that skipped off the top of his glove.