The Washington Capitals tonight visit another of those inhospitable buildings where they have never won a game. This time, the eager host is Minnesota, which has earned six victories and two ties against the Capitals in Bloomington's et Center.
The North Stars are living proof of the National Hockey League's inability to achieve competitive parity. Minnesota combined forces with the dissolving Cleveland Barons in June, but this new constellation of "stars" is struggling, with a 5-7-2 record.
The best news to come out of Minnesota recently was the clearance of Coach Harry Howell to resume his place behind the bench. Howell was hospitalized when an electrocardiogram showed a "false positive" reading.
The worst news for the North Stars was an 8-1 loss at Los Angeles in their most recent outing. The Kings are below .500, too, and that is a common failing in a league where, entering last night's action, only seven of 17 teams were above the break-even point, four of them in the Patrick Division.
There were outcries at merger time that the Capitals, among others, should have insisted on a draft dispersal of Cleveland players, instead. However, a look at Minnesota's statistics shows that the two clubs combined didn't have many assets beyond standout goalie Gilles Meloche.
However, Meloche is sidelined with a strained knee.
Winger Al MacAdam will play against the Capitals. He had been out for three weeks for surgery on his finger.
The North Stars' leading scorers are Tim Young and Mike Fidler, each with three goals and eight assists.
Veteran J.P. Parise has six goals, high-priced free-agent defenseman Gary Sargeant four. Bob Smith, the million-dollar center who was the top pick in the June amateur draft, can boast only three.
Brad Maxwell, the super draftee defenseman of a year ago, has not scored a goal, after netting 18 as a rookie.
While Minnesota has been resting at home since its Saturday humiliation, the Capitals were scheduled to fly out this morning. They met the Atlanta Flames last night at Capital Centre and tonight's contest (WTOP-Radio-1500 at 8:30 p.m.) marks the sixth time this young season that the Capitals have played back-to-back games in different cities.
The scheduling ordeal has been magnified by the league's decision to close down the week of Feb. 5 and play a three-game all-star series against the Soviet Union.