The Washington Capitals' plight as a loser becomes even more pronounced tonight. When the hockey team visits Cleveland for an 8 p.m. game against the Barons, its actions will not be transformed into words, since WTOP radio has chosen to broadcast the Bullets' home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Past practice has been to broadcast road games in conflicts such as this, on the assumption that hard-core fans will be present at Capital Centre. But winning (Bullets) and losing (Capitals) apparently are the new criteria.

The Capitals are 0-7 against the Barons since they took up residence in Cleveland, after years of empty seats in Oakland. Although far more successful than Washington on the ice, Cleveland still plays to small bands of loyalists, with only two crowds reaching five figures this season and the turnstiles clicking as few as 3,252 times.

Cleveland posted a 3-2 victory over the Capitals at Capital Centre Friday night, with Dennis Maruk producing the winner 89 seconds from the end. Maruk, a second-round draft choice in 1976, when the Capitals twice passed him by, has amassed 14 goals in 24 games. Only six players in the NHL have more.

The Barons, one of five NHL teams with a losing record at home, can balance that mark at 5-5-2 with a success tonight. The Capitals are 1-8-2 away from home, with the only victory coming in Atlanta Oct. 26. Following tonight's contest, the Capitals travel to Atlanta for a return engagement Saturday night.