Two hours after Washington goalies Jim Bedard and Bernie Wolfe had been riddled for six goals on only 22 Minnesota shots, the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association folded. So the Capitals' general manager, Max McMab, wasted no time putting through a call to Indianapolis goalie Gary Inness.
Inness, who played for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in the NHL, arrived here last night for discussions with McNab. If the details can be worked out, he figures to be in a Washington uniform very quickly, perhaps as early as tonight's 7:30 contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Capital Centre.
Inness, 29, is a free agent as far as the NHL is concerned, but there remained some question whether the WHA would stage a draft of Indianapolis players. Even if it does, it would seem unlikely that Inness would be selected, since the six remaining teams are set in goal and do not desire the burden of additional contracts.
Inness had a 4.34 goals-aginst average in seven games for the Racers, who were decimated by sales of players designed to keep things afloat for a while. The other Indianapolis goalie, ex-Capital Gary Smith, had a 5.51 mark.
"Gary has NHL experience," McNab said "He played well in Pittsburgh and then ran into an impossible situation in Philadelphia, with (Bernie) Parent's hot hand.
I don't foresee any technicality that would create a holdup, if in fact we decide to make a move rather quickly."
Rookie center Ryan Walter, who suffered a torn muscle below the rib cage in Boston Thursday, is considered "very doubtful" tonight. Right wing Tom Rowe, another spectator during Friday's 6-1 loss to Minnesota, has completed his two-game suspension and will be back to face the Leafts. Although some awful Washington mistakes contributed to the six Minnesota goals, Bedard was not blameless in yielding field in the first two periods.
McNab has always refrained from criticizing his players, but he was merely noting the obvious when he said, "It's a tough spot and I know we left him vulnerable a few times, but Minnesota left their guy vulnerable, too."
Mnnesota's Gilles Meloche made 32 saves as he blunted Washington's 33-22 shooting advantage. The Capitals helped out by shooting wide on some excellent chances with Meloche left out of position by earlier shots. The Capitals are now 2-10-2 at home and the fans are unhappy. So is McNab.
"I'm very frustrated about our performance, especially at home here," McNab said. "There is a terrible curse that comes on a losing team that sometimes the best performances come on the road. We seem to have more togetherness and team play on the road."