Oh, brother, it figures to be a tempestuous time at Capital Centre tonight when Chicago's Grant Mulvey, an 18-goal scorer, skates out against his little brother, Paul, the Capitals' policeman par excellence.

Grant Mulvey, the only man to reach double figures for the Black Hawks so far this season, plays right wing on the No. 1 line with Terry Ruskowski and Rich Preston. Paul is the left wing on Washington's top checking line with Mike Gartner and varied centers, the most recent being Ryan Walter.

That should put them nose to nose, with reverberations heard in the $4.50 seats. Grant is 6 feet 3 and 200 pounds, Paul 6-4 and 215.

Earlier this season, in Chicago, Paul nailed Grant with a couple of solid checks and skated away from a brotherly right hook. Later, Grant landed a good check and ducked at the last second to leave Paul crashing unchecked into the boards.

A year ago, Paul avoided Grant, who should have been checking him, and scored a late-game goal that enabled the Capitals to tie the Hawks, 2-2. Grant was so angry he refused to discuss his brother afterward.

If this sounds as if Grant, 23, and Paul, 21, have been slugging it out since childhood, forget it. They cannot remember ever having swung at each other in anger, no matter Grant's wild hook a month ago.

"Whenever I see Grant on the ice, I could just hug him, I'm so proud of him being there and doing well," Paul said. "The greatest relationship is brothers and we're friends, too. It's always a thrill to be on the ice with him.

"But we're both out there to do a job, too. I can't lose to him and he can't lose to me. I don't think you'll ever see us in a fight, but you'll never see either of us back off from hitting (checking) each other, either."

Grant, drafted at 17 by the Hawks in 1974, is finally achieving in his sixth NHL season the stardom that was expected of him. Meanwhile, Paul, in his second year, is showing amazing improvement. In each case, one reason is obvious: increased playing time.

Grant has never scored 20 goals in a season. Paul had seven a year ago, matching Grant's first year, and has scored seven this campaign, including two during the glorious 8-2 rout of Toronto on Wednesday.

In 11 games in December, Paul has collected five goals and three assists while posting a performance rating of pulus 10. Those flashy figures are a pleasant change from the days of Danny Belisle, when Paul received just enough ice time to commit a boo-boo and earn a lecture.

"I don't want to talk behind anybody's back, but you can't do a job unless you're given a chance," Paul said. "If you're a writer and your boss rips up everything you write, you'll never improve.

"Gary (Green) has given me a chance and he's stuck with me, even when I've made mistakes. Now I'm cutting them down and when I do make a mistake, I try to correct it.

"It's coming. I've got a long way to go, but I can see that some day I'll get there. It hurts not to play, game ice time is so important. Things are happening because I'm out there. Before I couldn't make them happen because I wasn't out there. It's happening for me and it's happening for Grant.

"It's about time he started playing up to his potential. Life is so much brighter when things are going for you. But he's just 23, so he's not much behind guys who come into the league at 20 and need the experience before they improve."

Paul scored two memorable goals in Toronto, coming around from behind to jam the puck past goalie Paul Harrison and then firing a backhander past Harrison from the slot. In addition, he made possible a long score by Robert Picard, hanging tough in the crease and bumping Harrison to distract him.

"When I'm in front of the net like last night, there is no way they can move a guy my size out without hacking at him," Paul said. "I take a lot of bangs, cross checks in the arms and neck, but I have to take it. I can read how things are coming and I get ready for it.

"I like to stand in close and get the goaltender's mind off the shot that's coming. If the defenseman tries to move me, he'll be congesting things, too. And if he shoves me, I try to bump the goaltender. If I touch the goalie without being pushed in, the goal can be disallowed or I can be called for interference, so I have to be a little careful. But usually the goaltender is hacking me with his stick and it gets pretty wild."

Paul put on a helmet Friday for the first time since his junior days, then forgot to wear it in Toronto.

"The white one I wear at home is comfortable, bigger than most," Paul said. "But the road helmet is an old model and it's tighter and gives me a headache. I'm going to wear it, though. I hit my head straight on the glass while I had it on and I'll bet I would have had quite a bump without it."

With Paul's style and his team-leading penalty total of 100 minutes, he figures to get a lot of bumps. He also can expect some pats on the back from Green, who appreciates what a player like Paul can mean to a team.

"He has size, strength and determination," Green said. "He's very consistent in how he plays and what he does. He goes out and skates and hits and digs the puck out of the corners. That's what I expect of him and that's what he's done consistently.

"He needs to improve his skating and his handling of the puck, but he is improving. I'm very confident with him out there, even against the best line on the other team."

In Toronto, Paul joined Walter and Gartner in holding the Darryl Sittler-Lanny McDonald-Tiger Williams line without a shot during the first period, in which Washington built a 4-0 lead. So tonight, with Green able to exercise last change, it will be no surprise if he and his mates are sent out against Grant and the first-line Hawks.

It would be a surprise, though, if Grant repeated his performance in a junior game during which they opposed each other. When 14-year-old Paul scored the winning goal, 16-year-old Grant jumped for joy on the opposite bench.