Assuming he can conquer the problem of securing flight accommodations from Binghamton, N.Y., during the height of the Christmas travel crush, Blair Stewart will join the Washington Capitals here Saturday in time to play against his old club, the Detroit Red Wings.
Stewart, who will become the Capitals' fastest skater, scored 15 goals in his first 22 games for Hersey, which was scheduled for an American Hockey League contest in Binghamton tonight.
Since Stewart was acquired by the Capitals from the Red Wings for Mike Bloom in March 1975, he has written a tale of woe worthy of Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit. So it is only fitting that he should be extended major-league promotion as an unexpected Christmas gift.
In his second game as a Capital, Stewrt was struck by teammate Gord Smith's shot and suffered a broken left foot, terminating his season.
Stewart survived the Capitals' second campaign with no worse than a sprained ankle and collected 13 goals in 74 games.
The following year, he suffered a broken right leg in his 1oth game, when he was checked by Minnesota's Fred Barrett. Returning after a 10 week layoff, he performed ineffectively and spent considerable time at the Capitals' farm in Springfield, Mass.
Last year, Stewart's summer-long fitness effort was disrupted in training camp when he blasted into boards by Archie Henderson and need surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left knee. Returning Jan. 31, he played eight games with the Capitals before finishing up in Hershey.
Stewart looked sharp in camp this year, but he was farmed out to get playing time, after so idleness.
"He was naturally disappointed to go down," General Manager Max McNab said today, "but when you miss the bulk of two seasons, certain aspects of your game, particularly timing need work. The last 10 days he has been playing very well and, mentally and physically, he's ready. We intend to have a good look at him."
McNab, who farmed out both Nelson Burton and Gord Smith on their birthdays, is not playing Santa Claus for Stewart's benefit. The timing of his recall was motivated by the importance of Saturdayhs game (WTOP-1500 at 7:30 p.m.). Former Red Wing Bryan Watson, who sat out Thursday's 5-2 loss in Philadelphia, is also on this trip for inspirational purposes.
"We're 10 points out of a playoff spot and when I think back I can see where we could have picked up six points so easily it makes me sick," McNab said. "Seven of us are like our own separate division looking for those last two playoff spots. These division games against teams like Detroit are so important to us."
Ten teams-Montreal, Boston, Toronto, Buffalo, the New York Islanders and Rangers, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Vancouver and Chicago - are virtually assured playoff berths. Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, each with 31 points, are the logical fill teams at the moment.
Minnesota and Detroit have 25 points apiece, while the Capitals rank 15th with 21.
In looking back for those missing points, McNab could find one on Nov. 5, when Washington carried 3-1 lead into the last seven minutes against Detroit at Capital Centre and was tied on goals by defensemen Perry Miller and Thommie Bergman, who skated unchecked into the slot.
The Red Wings, who played the Rangers in New York tonight, are led by the man who wasn't supposed to be there, center Dale McCourt, with 14 goals and 35 points.
Rogie Vachon, the Los Angeles goalie whose signing as a free agent triggered court action by designated compensation McCourt, has a mediocre 5 11-6 record, with a 3.63 goals-against average.
Gary inness, who played so well in two games aga4inst Philadelphia, will be back in the Capitals' nets Saturd4ay.
"He's been used to a lot of work and we obviously have no complaints with his play," McNab said.
A forward will be sent to Hershey in Stewart's place, but McNab was delaying the assignment until he was certain Stewart could get here in time for the game. Paul Mulvey and mark Lofthouse are the prime possiblities for demotion. Mulvey has no goals and two assists in his last 27 games; Lofthouse has not been on the ice for a Washington goal since his hat trick in Vancouver, recording 11 minutes in six games.
Coach Danny Belisle, maintaining his sense of humor in the face of adversity and criticism, requested that future travel itineraries be distributed in three languages- English, French and Swedish - after center Rolf Edberg missed the club's 6 p.m. bus from Capital Centre tonight.
The Swede, who had interpreted the departure hour as 6 a.m. Saturday, did not have his Christmas goose completely cooked since he arrived at National Airport just in time to board the flight for Detroit.