It was in the Montreal Forum five years ago that Milt Schmidt, general manager of the Washington Capitals, watched a particularly inept play during a 10-0 loss to the Canadiens, turned to a reporter and shouted, "Do you mind if I wring your neck to relieve my frustration?"

The reporter did mind and today Gary Green, the present coach, promised that any recurrence here Saturday night would not put reporters' necks in jeopardy.

"If we lose, 10-0, to the Canadiens it won't be a reporter I grab by the throat," said Green who was not his usual smiling self.

Another botched travel itinerary, which forced the team to rise in Detroit at 6:15 a.m. today, four hours ahead of schedule, aggravated displeasure left over from the night before, when the Capitals were drubbed by the Red Wings, 4-1.

A photo in today's Detroit News showed Capitals Pierre Bouchard and Robert Picard colliding and a teammate commented, snidely, but with almost 100 percent accuracy, "That must have been our only action of the night."

Green's assessment of the debacle was similar: "We definitely weren't skating the way we're capable of skating. We were not taking the body and we were not hitting the way we can."

The ultimate embarrassment occured in the first of two Washington power plays, when the Capitals proved unable to cross the Detroit blue line. On the second extra-man situation, the only shot on goal came from the Wings' John Ogrodnick.

So it is no surprise that Saturday morning's practice will be devoted to the power play, which has clicked only three times in the last 26 opportunities.

"A good power play is one that stays together," Green said. "We just haven't been able to keep our personnel together and we haven't had time to work on it, either.

"I hate to do it tomorrow with the other team's coaches and players looking at you from the stands, but we need it and it is the kind of thing you can do on a game day without draining the guys for the game.

"We were successful at one time, but (Guy) Charron was a big part of it and now he's gone. (Dennis) Maruk will be a big part of it, though, and I think we can get the touch back.

"One problem has been the way I've been forced to balance our lines because of inconsistent play by some. Now take one player off each line for the power play and after two units have been out there, we're throwing a fourth together when the power play ends.

"Then the other team sends out a line like Detroit did with (Dale) McCourt, Ogrodnick and (Mike) Foligno and we're in trouble."

The Capitals will continue to miss Rolf Edberg Saturday night because of his groin pull, but for once Washington's medical report does not overshadow that of the opposition's.

Although Bob Gainey will return from an ankle injury Saturday, Montreal must play without Guy Lafleur, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe and probably Brian Engblom. Lafleur has been out since bruising a knee in Washington's 3-1 victory at Capital Centre Feb. 19, but the Canadiens have not suffered without him, posting three wins and a tie.

Bouchard will be making his first appearance at the Forum in a Washington uniform. He was idled by a separation of collarbone and breastbone when the Capitals dropped a 2-0 decision here in November.

With Lefluer absent, the popular Bouchard figures to be the focal point for the Montreal fans. Seventy members of the Capitals' Fan Club are here to cheer up the rest of the Washington team.