The Washington Capitals, who have challenged the Boston Bruins 17 times without recording a victory, make assault No. 18 tonight in Boston Garden (WDCA-TV-20 at 7:30 p.m.).

If there is ever an ideal time to play the Bruins, this is it.Boston has lost three of its last four games, including a rare home-ice setback to the New York Rangers. That was the Bruins' only failure in their last 17 games there.

Left wing Don Marcotte, probably the best checker on a team of fine defensive players, is expected to play for Boston tonight after missing three games with a wrenched back. Center Gregg Sheppard recently returned after a long absence with strained knee ligaments and rookie center Dwight sound again after early-season knee surgery.

On Boston's absentee list tonight will be defenseman Mike Forbes, hobbled by a severely sprained right ankle, and defenseman Doug Halward, who has the flu.

The Bruins last year fought their way into the Stanley Cup final without placing a man on either the first or second NHL all-star teams. This season, they lead the Adams Division, but only defenseman Brad Park and right wing Terry O'Reilly were chosen to play for the Prince of Wales Conference in Tuesday's NHL All-Star Game at Buffalo.

Through the years, the Capitals have managed to tie the Bruins three times, but overall they have been outscored, 93-39. Thanksgiving night, Gilles Gilbert blanked the Capitals in Boston, 6-0. Three weeks ago at Capital Centre, the Bruins rallied from a 3-2 deficit to beat Washington, 6-3.