There are a lot of reasons besides the obvious, why Washington's Craig Patrick would like to score a couple of goals tonight when the New York Rangers visit Capital Centre for a 7:30 faceoff with the Capitals.

For one thing, there's the influence of history. Patrick's grandfather, Lester, was the Ranger's first general manager and coach. His father, Lynn, and his uncle, Muzz, were both Ranger stars who later coached the team.

Then there's the matter of reputation. Patrick has always been known as a defensive specialist, usually assigned to do the checking for a couple of hotshot scorers. Now, with Washington, he has been encouraged by coach Tom McVie to take the offensive.

Finally, a red-light night would not only please the coach but also boost Patrick's chances of receving a 1977-78 contract. He came here on a look - see basis when the WHA's Minnesota Fighting Saints folded and, with a baby due momentarily, a little security would not be unwelcome.

As befit his lineage, Patrick first tested a pair of skates at age 2 and says that "hockey has always been on my mind." He left his home in Boston to attend high school in Montreal, where his hockey career would be enhanced. Still, he claims his father never propelled him into the sport.

"He maybe pushed me the other way," Patrick said. "He told me there were lots of other things to do, ways to make a better living."

The Rangers, managed by Uncle Muzz, were Patrick's second-favorite team during his youth. No. 1 was the Boston Bruins, managed by Lynn.

"At that time, Boston and the Rangers probably had the biggest rivalry in the NHL," Patrick said. "They would play every Thanksgiving night and every New Year's night. It was good for family get-togethers but at the dinner table there was a lot of static. Nobody talked about the game."

The family name has never created pressure for him, Patrick said. Instead, his career has been hampered by that reputation as a defensive specialist.

"I've always wanted to be offensive," he said, "but my coaches always wanted me to play defense. They always seemed to put me on a line with two scoring forwards. But here Tom McVie just sendsus out to play hockey. One guy has to be back, but it doesn't matter who it is. The three guys are equal, and you can take a chance here and there."

"Every time the other team gets the puck, he has a tendency to start right back," McVie noted. "You can be too defensive-minded, leave before you should. I think Craig Patrick can contribute more than he has. I really think he's capable of scoring 25 goals.

"He doesn't realize how good a hockey player he can be. He has a quick, heavy shot, and he can go high or low, or he can deke. He's a physical-fitness nut. All his tests were excellent, except recuperative power, and he hasn't been with us that long. He can play left wing or right wing and he backhands a pass better than anyone I've seen in years. "He's a good power-play man, but he's never been used on the power play. A reputation can kill you. Before everybody just set him to killing penalties. He's a better skater and has a better shot than anyone has given him credit for. Most important, he wants to Play."

Patrick, who has collected seven goals and seven assists in 22 games, would like nothing better than the opportunity to fulfill McVie's 25-goal prediction.

"I want to stay here and play here," Patrick said. "I think everybody does. Sometimes it's hard work, but it's for our betterment. We've got a fine coach and the centermen are all great hockey players. This should be a great franchise in the future."

Might even rival the Rangers.

Winger Tony White, skating around a goal cage at the start of yesterday's practice struck his forehead on a goalie still trying atop the net. He had to leave for stitches . . . . Roger Crozier is expected to be a 60-minute man for the first time in the Capitals' goal tonight . . . Phil Esposito has scored 15 power-play goals for the Rangers, who still have a chance to overhaul Atlanta and gain a playoff berth.