The Chicago Black Hawks, most penalized team in the NHL, visit Capital Centre tonight at 7:30. By coincidence, or perhaps otherwise, the Washington capitals yesterday called up left wing Nelson Burton from Hershey of the American Hockey League.
Burton, 6-foot, 200-pound left wing, accumulated 50 penalty minutes in four games with Hershey Over an 80-game season that translates to 1,000 minutes in the box.
A year ago, Burton spent 398 minutes watching his Quebec Remparts junior team kill penalties. The Capitals made Burton their No. 4 draft choice, but he has not been offered a pro contract.
"He is aggressive," said Washington general manager Max McNab, "but he's not a mean player. He comes out best in the corners and we're not a corner club yet. In front of the net and in the corners is where you win or lose."
So in this corner, wearing red trunks, will be Burton, subbing for Ace Bailey, victim of a stretched knee ligament. Tony White, who played in Minnesota Saturday, has returned to Hershey.
Center Gerry Meehan will resume action, after attending his mother-in-law's funeral yesterday. Meehan missed the one-sided defeats at Colorado (8-1) and Minnesota (7-4).
"We're certainly not offering excuses for those beatings." McNab said, "but not having Meehan had to affect (Craig) Patrick and (Bill) Riley. Meehan is a pretty stabilizing force. He wasn't the team's MVP by accident last year."
Defenseman Gordie Lane, struck in the left foot by a shot in Colorado, skated briefly yesterday and said he would be ready tonight.
"The swelling has come down," Lane said, "but it's still tender. I expected a break when it happened. They tell me if it hadn't hit where there was extra protection, a bone would have been broken."
Defenseman Yvon Labre will join Bailey in the press box. An examination of Labre's damaged right knee proved inconclusive yesterday and he has been scheduled for further tests on Thursday.
Coach Tom McVie named Bernie Wolfe to start in goal for the Capitals and hoped that his team of Jekylls would return, after being replaced by Hydes over the weekend.
"By the feeling around here, I'd say you'll see the team that played against Montreal and Atlanta," McVie said. "Whatever we had going for us disappeared in those next two games, but we're able to bounce back better than most teams, because that kind of thing happens to us more often.
"We got an awful lot of things straightened away, both in the dressing room and on the ice. Everybody realized now that just because our club is in decent condition we can't just show up and win. I tryly believe we'll come out gunning."
Defenseman Bryan Watson figured the double dose of disaster could prove to be a blessing.
"I'd like to think that might have been a rubbed that way," Watson said. "We know we can't just throw our sticks out there. Each person has to do his job, yet work together as a team.
"It's difficult to play when you're down 5-0. It's very disheartening. And some individuals try to do too much and you wind up with a complete breakdown. But that's behind us. We have to get everyone in the right frame of mind, thinking positive things."
There were some positive signs at Fort Dupont yesterday.Rookie defenseman Robert Picard, straining under extra skating assigned by McVie, was suddenly joined in his labors by an encouraging Dave Forbes. Before Picard had finished 10 other Capitals were escorting him on his rounds.
Goalie Roger Crozier, who scouted the Black Hawks last week, was impressed with the club's new look under coach Bob Pulford.
"Pully's really got them hustling," Crozier said. "They've got some big, rough kids, and they've got a whole new attitude."
Among the best of them are center Jean Savard, a No. 2 draft choice who played with Burton at Quebec and leads the Hawks in scoring with four goals and three assists; defenseman Doug Wilson, brother of Montreal's Murray and the team's No. 1 draft pick, and rugged winger Ted Bulley, up from Flint of the International Hockey League.
Along with wingers Battleship Kelly and Pierre Piante, obtained in trades, they have helped transform a lethargic team, which barely limped to play off status, into the Smythe Division leader, unbeaten in its last four games.