The Washington Capitals will put playoff tickets on sale this morning, then attempt to validate them tonight.
The Philadephia Flyers will be 7:30 visitors to sold-out Capital Centre and the Capitals never have beaten Philly in 22 meetings. There are especially bad memories of the Flyers' last visit, when Bobby Clarke salvaged a tie with four seconds left, but none of the past-performance data matters so much as the fact that the Capitals need a victory to enhance their playoff chances. a
"Trying to forget that last game is hard, to work for 60 minutes and be tied with four seconds to play, but tomorrow is another day," said defenseman Robert Picard. "We need the two points, and whether we never beat them or not, it doesn't matter. There are other teams we didn't beat before and we did it this year." m
"At this time of the schedule, you don't want to remember," said captain Ryan Walter. "We had no doubt that we'd win then and we have no doubt now. We're feeling good. There is no such word as worry and no such word as can't. We've scrubbed them from our vocabulary. We're going to win tomorrow and I have no doubt that we'll be in the playoffs."
Coach Gary Green is certainly no doubter, either, but he watched the Flyers flatten Quebec Thursday night, 5-2, and he thinks Philadephia has returned to the form it displayed before spinning a recent seven-game winless cocoon.
"The score flattered Quebec," Green said. "The Flyers really had them, from the first drop of the puck to the end. They're back to the same old style."
The Flyers, with 110 points, need just one more victory to wrap up first place for the regular season, so they are unlikely to be coasting tonight.
"They'll be coming with the champagne and the caviar," Green said. "Sure, there isn't much doubt they'll finish first, but with Buffalo and Montreal you never know. It's the kind of thing you like to wrap up and celebrate, not let it drag on."
There was a theory that the Flyers slipped, after playing brilliant hockey since October, because some of the veterans were wearing down. So Coach Pat Quinn has instituted a "Rest a Vet" campaign for the rest of the regular season. Reggie Leach and Bill Barber watched the Quebec game, but it is not known who will be designated tonight.
"I don't assume they'll rest anybody here," said Green. "I expect nothing but the toughest of battles. I'd like to anticipate something less, but I know better."
The last two meetings, like many that came before, were full of fights. But Green does not feel it was the result of attempted intimidation by the Flyers. Nor does he expect the Flyers to try to lure any members of the short-staffed Washington defense into brawls to get them out of action.
"The Flyers weren't intimidating, they were just playing the body," Green said. "They did it against Quebec and they did it here last time. The Quebec defense was like Macy's turnstile. The didn't know which way to turn.
"I wouldn't think the Flyers would pick on our defense, because theirs isn't in the best of shape. (Bob) Daily is out with a bad shoulder, (Norm) Barnes just came back for an injury and (Behn) Wilson is playing hurt. If they try to get our defensemen out, we'll just return the favor."
The entire Washington team practices at Fort Dupont yesterday, a rare event for which trainer Gump Embro was accepting congratulations. There are many bumps and bruises, but with only eight days left in the regular season, nobody was asking for rest and recuperation time.
"The countodwn is at five," Green said. "After tomorrow night, there will either be only seven days of hockey left of there will be seven and counting."
Those ticket buyers are counting on seven-plus.