His family, hometown Toronto friends, Washington armchair hockey fans and all of Canada will be watching tonight as Mike Manson begin a last drive for permanent major-league status in the Washington Capitals' New Year's night battle with the Maple Leafts. The game begins at 8 p.m. and will be picked up in progress by WTOP-TV-9 at 8:30.

It would seem Marson is being tossed into the same pressure cooker that haunted his first two seasons in a Washington uniform. Aware of the circumstances, he will try to minimize them.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm just trying to completely dicard any pressure deal or interference," the 21-year-old left wing said by telephone from Toronto. "I'm going to forget everything and everybody and just play. If I think about things like Hockey Night in Canada, or Maple Leaf Gardens, or the fact that it's my last good shot, I'll be nervous and I'll wind up tripping over the blue line or something.

"I had butterflies this morning in practice. I said to myself, 'What's this, butterflies in practice?' But that's how bad I want it. I'll be biting and scratching and doing everything in my power to stick."

Marson has received almost a half million dollars from the Capitals since 1974, when they chose him as their Joly. Like Joly, he was expected to produce great things, and those expectations were beyond his capabilities. His contact expires in May and he means of employment.

"I've got to be realistic," Marson said. "It is my last year. They're looking for something out of it from me. It would be bad business for them to make a further investment if they don't see it."

Marson scored 16 goals in his first NHL season, then wound up his second campaign in Baltimore after a long stretch as a Capital benchwarmer. He came to training camp in excellent shape in September, but found himself demoted to Springfield, where he did not receive much ice time until the Capitals insisted in early December that he be used.

"I trained the hardest last summer I ever trained," Marson said. "I can't get over how hard I trained. Then, when I was sitting out at Sprinfield, I was really wondering where my career was. But once you're playing, you get your confidence back."

Besides his confidence, Marson has acquired a sense that somebody up above is finally helping him out.

"Yesterday I called some of my friends," Marson said. "You know how it is, you just get feeling you'd like to talk to some people. And every one of them was telling me to stick with it, that perseverence pays off, things like that. Then I went out of the rink and George Leary, the Springfield owner, had a note from Max (Washington general manager Max McNab) and he told me I was back with the Capitals, it was just like somebody was pulling strings."

Bill Riley, called up from Dayton at the same time Marson got the good news, was scheduled to play in Toledo last night, then join the Capitals this morning.

Washington will play with five defensemen, since Jack Lynch's bruised tailbone will keep him at home. Lynch is hopeful of playing against St. Louis Sunday afternoon at Capiral Centre.

The Capitals defeated Toronto, 3-2, Dec. 17 at Capital Centre. However, they are now on a four-game losing streat, while Toronto snapped a three-game slide with 6-2 success in Cleveland Wednesday night.