The Washington Capitals came down from the mountains tonight, determined to conquer a mountain of a different sort. When the Capitals battle the Los Angeles Kings at the Forum Saturday night, they will be attempting to overcome a team that has wiped them out 10 straight times here.
The Capitals worked out Wednesday, Thursday, and today up in Squaw Valley, did some belated Christmas shopping in Reno this afternoon, then flew here.
They will have to beat the Kings, however, without defensemen Jack Lynch, who will be idle at least 10 weeks - probably until next season - after undergoing surgery on his right knee Thursday. Lynch badly tore ligaments Tuesday in a collision with Vancouver winger Hilliard Graves.
Lynch's loss, following a similar operation on Yvon Labre, left the Capital's defense corps extremely thin, although Gord Lane was pulled back from Hershey to fill the latest vacancy. Lynch had been playing very well, particularly in defensing those two-on-one breaks to which the Capitals seem to fall victim so often.
Besides commending the team's attitude during the Squaw Valley interlude, coach Tom McVie said the three day session had given him an opportunity to work at length with some of the younger players notably defenseman Robert Picard and winger Eddy Godin.
While the Capitals displayed considerable enthusiam, the Kings were trying to discover why they had played so badly in their last two games, home defeats to Toronto Saturday (3-0) and Buffalo Thursday (7-3).
"It seems all we have is five-game home stands," said the Kins captain, Mike Murphy, "and they seem to take something away from us. we seem to get a little complacent once we get home for a spell.
"In this sport, it's something you can't do, especially a team like this. For us to be successful, we have to work hard all the time and be desciplined on the ice."
Right wing Marcel Dionne returned to action Thursday, after a nine-game layoff with a shoulder separation, but seemed rusty. The Kings are without winger Tommy Williams, who suffered a chipped bone in his left ankle when he was slashed by Atlanta's Bill Clement Dec. 3.
The Capitals will renew acquaintance with right wing Hartland Monahan, beaming over his new three-year-plus option contract with the KIngs. Monahan was unable to reach terms with both Washington and Pittsburgh.
"I know it looked like no one wanted me," Monahan said, "but it looked to me like no one wanted to pay me what I'm worth. I know I'm not a great player and I'm not greedy, but I'm a good player and I have a good idea what I should be getting. I got together with the Kings fairly fast."
Washington general manager Max McNab got together with Los Angeles counterpart George Maguire for lunch today. McNab is believed interested in landing defenseman Larry Brown, a frequent press box idler these days.
McNab was in Vancouver, where the once again failed to agree on a proposed deal with general manager Jake Milford. McNab had planned to stop in Seattle for a junior game, when the player he wanted to evaluate was injured, so he rushed here in time to see the Kings play Buffalo.
McNab's next major decision involves goalie Bernie Wolfe, whose 14-day assignment in Hershey ended tonight. Wolfe has been receiving his full major league salary, but also has cleared waivers and may be left in Hershey indefinitely at minor league pay. Wolfe has indicated this is unsatisfactory to him.
With 21-year-old Jim Bedard playing well for the Capitals and 20-year-old Rollie Boutin the leading International League goalie, Wolfe has little leverage other than the support of Capital Center fans. Their voices, however, cannot be ignored, because there aren't that many of them.