The Washington Capitals think they have the horses to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs, but horses of a different sort are making their job more difficult.

The Washington International Horse Show will occupy Capital Centre Oct. 22-30, so after just two home games the Capitals must undertake a brutal four-game road trip.

Since one of the home games is against Stanley Cup champion Montreal, Wasnington's first-month prospects are bleak. On the bright side is the knowledge that if they can stay close the schdeule could be favorable. The Capitals will play 16 of their last 25 games at home.

Following that second home contest, the Capitals will play in Montreal on Monday, Oct. 26, then go to Atlanta Wednesday, Denver Friday and Minnesota Saturday.

The Capitals faced a difficult early schedule in previous years because both the Ringling Brothers Circus and the Horse Show occupied Capital Centre in October. The circus is now a spring attraction, but the NHL this year started its season week later than usual, so the Capitals could not take advantage of home-ice availability.

On 22 occasions, the Capitals must play two nights in a row. Sixteen of those times, the second game will be on the road, a factor that does not figure to help the Capitals.

One pleasant aspect for the players is the presence of only one road game during the Christmas-New Year holiday period, a Dec. 28 game in Pittsburgh.