The Washington Capitals called up right wing Mark Lofthouse, their No. 2 amateur draft choice of 1977, from Hershey of the American Hockey League yesterday.

It was uncertain, however, whether Lofthouse would play in last night's home game against Minnesota. Coach Tom McVie planned to watch Lofthouse and Blair Stewart in the pregame warmup before deciding which to use.

Stewart, who underwent knee surgery Sept. 24, has been skating for several weeks and expressed a desire to see some action. General manager Max McNab, however, was doubtful whether Stewart was ready to step right into NHL play and was contemplating a tour at Hershey for the winger who was Washington's fastest skater in training camp.

Lofthouse scored one goal during a seven-game stretch with the Capitals in November. He was sent back to Hershey to work on fundamentals.

Nelson Burton, who played in Friday's 5-2 loss to Boston, was returned to Hershey. He has completed the maximum five-game NHL trial permitted to players who have not signed pro contracts. Lofthouse signed a pro contract in August.

Defenseman Yvon Labre, whose 14-day option period in Hershey expires Tuesday, will remain with the Bears for up to 14 additional days. This is permitted if the player agrees to the need for additional conditioning.

Labre, who underwent knee surgery Nov. 8, has played well for the Bears and Saturday night he scored a goal and was selected the No. 1 star as Hershey defeated Maine, 5-3.

"He's still not strong," McNab said. "He says the difference between when he played for Hershey several years ago and now is that he has the experience and knows not to be trapped. But he has a problem with solid contact, particularly when he has to use the right leg as the pushoff leg."

The Capitals open a six-game road trip to Vancouver Tuesday night and do not return to Capital Centre until Feb. 14, also against the Canucks.