Mark Lofthouse could not close his right hand over his stick yesterday, but he will be in the lineup tonight when the Washington Capitals welcome the Colorado Rockies to Capital Centre at 7:30.

One finger was scraped and two others required three stitches apiece Saturday in Vancouver after teammate Guy Charron stepped on Lofthouse's hand during a line change. Following treatment, Lofthouse retuned to score three goals in the Capitals' 7-5 victory over the Canucks, their first-ever success in Canada.

The hand was swollen yesterday, but Lofthouse worked out at Fort Dupont and then was cleared for play tonight by Dr. George Hajjar.

"I can't squeeze my hand all the way shut," Lofthouse said. "It was okay playing Saturday, because it was still loose, and it hadn't swollen up yet.

"I took my glove off on the bench to wipe the sweat off my face and there was a quick change and Guy jumped on the bench to go over. He stepped on the hand and cut me to the bone.

"I really felt sick and woozy at the sight of it and I was losing a lot of blood. I felt faint. I got stiched up and back from the dressing room just in time to go on the ice.

"I was holding back and not as aggressive as I wanted to be, but I got chances and the puck went in the net. After that, I told the guys they could step on my left hand, too."

The Capitals' first hat trick of the season was particularly satisfying to Lofthouse because he is a native of nearby New Westminister, where he also played his junior hockey. In addition, his father was watching him play for the first time as a professional.

"My dad had watched me in most of my games and practices since I was a kid, then he had a heart attack last year and this was his first chance to see me play pro," Lofthouse said. "My mom and sister were there, and I had a good 40 friends there, all cheering for me.

"I just wanted to play good, I never dreamed of that (the hat trick). About 100 people waited after and we went out and celebrated. It was like a banquet."

It was a refreshing experience for Lofthouse, who bounced around from Hershey to Washington to Salt Lake City a year ago, trying to adapt to his new circumstances while acquiring an undeserved reputation as a malcontent.

This year he sat out some early games and wondered about his future, before capitalizing on Coach Danny Belisle's decision to go with the kids. Lofthouse has scored nine goals in 23 games and is oozing confidence.

"I knew I had a good camp and I didn't want to start out at Hershey, where I had problems with the coach," Lofthouse said. "I started slow this year, but I've been coming on as the games have progressed. I don't care if I score 50 goals, as long as I can keep on learning and we have a good contender."

Excitement over goals and victories is a new feeling for Lofthouse. with New Westminster, he set a club record of 68 goals one season, and the team twice won the Memorial Cup, Canada's junior championship.

"At New West we were so used to winning, that a loss was really bad, but a win was nothing," Lofthouse said. "A goal wasn't really much, either. I just kind of gave a wave and that was it.

"Here we have a lot of young guys and we're building and it's a completely different setup. When we win, the whole team feels it. When I score, it makes me feel a lot better and I know I'm helping the team. We're not supposed to do good, but I hope we can prove everybody wrong and have a good team."

Goalie Jim Bedard will be in town today from Hershey for a chat with General Manager Max McNab and could be restored to the roster... The Rockies followed the Capitals onto the Fort Dupont ice and at least six, including Coach Aldo Guildolin, asked about the status of Robert Picard's shoulder, injured in Washington's 4-1 victory at Denver Tuesday. It is just a bruise and Picard will play tonight... Barry Beck, the Rockies' fine defenseman, was a New Westminster teammate of Lofthouse, who said, "He has to be one of the top defensemen I ever played with or against."... Tom Rowe must visit league headquarters in Montreal Wednesday for a hearing on his gross misconduct in Los Angeles Dec. 4... Gord Smith's penalty killing was one of the highlights of the Capitals' Western trip... Colorado has gone winless in seven games since beating Toronto in Guidolin's debut as coach.