he NHL roster freeze went into effect at noon yesterday and winger Blair Stewart found himself assigned to a deep freeze at Springfield of the American Hockey League.
The Washington Capitals shipped Stewart down following a tumultuous week in which both Stewart and coach Tom McVie displayed displeasure with each other's moves. Each NHL team is still permitted two nonemergency recalls, but Stewart's future is not a bright one.
On Tuesday, Stewart was assigned to sit out the home game with Los Angeles Angered, he stormed out of Capital Centre and did not watch the contest.
Returning to action Thursday, he drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for disputing an official's call. It left the Capitals two men short and permitted the Chicago Black Hawks to pull into a temporary tie in a game won by Washington, 7-4. McVie was upset, to understate the obvious.
Sunday Stewart saw limited duty, but he was the left wing when his opposite number, Atlanta right wing Ken Houston, broke free and produced the tying goal early in the third period. The Flames went on to win, 4-2.
Stewart, who will be 24 Tuesday totaled five goals and two assists in 34 games. He was out 10 weeks after breaking his right leg against Minnesota Nov. 7.
Winger Bob Siroia was still undergoing treatment here yesterday for his injured back, and the Capitals apparently will skate one man short for tonight's game in Vancouver.
Washington has lost all five previous games in Vancouver, so this trip the club arrived two days early for acclimation to jet lag.
Vancouver probably needs some sort of acclimtion to the Pacific Coliseum ice, since its home record of 9-20-3 is by far the worst in the NHL. Amazingly, the Canucks have managed to post a 10-20-5 mark on the road and are only five points behind third-place Minnesota in the struggle for a Smythe Division playoff berth.
Jack McIlhargey is back in the Canucks' lineup, having completed his 10-game suspension for that 28-stitch stick cut in the head of Detroit's J. P. Leblanc. Center Derek Sanderson has also joined Vancouver since its last meeting with the Capitals Dec. 7. Washington holds a 2-1 edge in a season series controlled by the home team.
Roger Crozier made it a goaltenders' threesome on the current three-game road trip and is expected to see some action, probably in Detroit Sunday afternoon. The Capitals also visit Los Angeles Thursday night.
Tonight's game will be broadcast on WTOP-1500 as soon as the Bullets' game in Milwaukee has ended.