Fresh from fun in the sun, the Washington Capitals will fly north today for their home opener against the Atlanta Flames at Capital Centre at 7:30 p.m.
The Capitals inaugurated the New hockey season in the National Hockey League's only southern cities, beating the Kings, 4-2, in Los Angeles Wednesday and playing the Flames here last night.
Through one of many vagaries in the NHL schedule, the Capitals will complete 50 percent of their activity against the Flames within 27 hours. Atlanta will return to Capital Centre Nov. 14, then the teams will play here Feb. 20.
Danny Belisle will make his first Capital Centre appearance behind the Washington bench tonight though he has not yet been able to hold a fullscale practice with the team he took over Monday. His only practice sessions were brief game-day skates Wednesday and yesterday.
Asked about the Flames, Belisle said, "At this point, I'm really not too concerned with the opposition. When I get to know my own team, I'll figure out the others."
Washington fans will not be familiar with some of the Capitals, either. Four of them , defenseman Leif Svenson, left wing Paul Mulvey and centers Greg Carroll and Rolf Edberg, will make their regular-season debuts at Capital Centre.
Right wings Eddy Godin and Mark Lofthouse made brief appearances last year. Defenseman Pete Scamurra was a regular in 1975-1976, before being trouble by calcium deposits that eventually necessitated leg surgery.
Left wing Bob Girard will wear No. 26, his favorite figure from Oakland and Cleveland days as he toils alongside center Guy Charron and right wing Tom Rowe on the Capitals' No. 1 line. Girard wore No. 10 last year, when 26 was the property of now-retired Bill Collins.
Girard and Rowe each scored a goal in the opener at Los Angeles and both are delighted to be teamed with the crafty Charron, Girard for the second straight season.
"I love it, it's great," Rowe said.
"Guy has been patient with me. He tells me to jump in the holes and the puck will be on my stick, and every time I've done it, it's been on my stick.
"I had to get used to it in the exhibition season, though. A couple of times I didn't think he could possibly get me the puck and there it came. So I had to be ready all the time."
"Tommy has to make a few adjustments, but he has the ability," Charron said. "I've always been used to right-hand shots on my right wing - (Mickey) Redmond, (Wilf) Palement and Hartland (Monahan). The main thing for us is to work together. That's the key for any line."
Atlanta is led by Bob MacMillan, who matched Charron's 38 goals a year ago. Third-period scores by MacMillan and Guy Chouinard enabled the Flames to gain a 4-4 tie at Chicago in their opener Wednesday.
The Flames will be missing 40-goal scorer Jean Pronovost, who strained a knee ligament Sept. 20 and has been skating only since Monday. The Capitals may have an added advantage tonight.Dorothy Benham, Miss America of 1976, will sing the National Anthem for the third consecutive home opener. The Caps have followed each of her previous renditions with a victory.
The somewhat better-known Kate Smith holds an NHL record of 50-6-2 while singing for the Philadelphia Flyers. Benham, married to Russ Anderson of the Pittsburgh Penquins, is 2-0-0.