As if he won't see enough of the St. Louis Blues this weekend, Washington Coach Gary Green flew to Pittsburgh Wednesday night and watched the Blues play dead for the Penguins, 9-3. He was not fooled into expecting similar necrotomy when the Blues visit Capital Centre tonight at 8, then entertain the Capitals in the Checkerdome Saturday night.
"(St. Louis Coach) Red Berenson and I got even," said Green, after returning a half hour late yesterday for the start of the Capitals' practice at Fort Dupont. "He scouted us Sunday in Chicago, when we played so poorly. It was a similar situation. They were coming off a big win over Montreal and we had just beaten the Rangers. It frequently happens that a team coming off a big win will be ripe for the taking.
"St. Louis' penalty killing has always been the best in the league and last night they gave up three power-play goals. But it doesn't give me false ideas. I know certain things not to accept. I still got a good understanding of their system.
"This is the last of our homestand (the Capitals will be on the road until Nov. 5 because of the horse show) and it's a very important game for us. It will be a tough game, too. Putting last night aside, they have a good hockey club (Mike) Liut has been unbelievable in the nets."
Ed Staniowski was the victim in Pittsburgh, but Liut will be in goal tonight. The Bowling Green University product was the key factor in the Blues' amazing rise from oblivion to overall 10th place in the NHL a year ago. Mike Palmateer, the man Washington is counting on for similar improvement this season, will make his first appearance since that eight-goal yield in Chicago Sunday.
Wayne Stephenson, the onetime St. Louis goalie who recorded the Capitals' first shutout in 33 months against Chicago on Tuesday, will return to action in the Saturday contest, the first TV game (WDCA-TV-20) of the Capitals' season.
This is the second of five back-to-back scheduling situations for the Capitals and Green enjoys them. He is too modest to say so, but it is likely because he figures he can pick up enough pointers during the first contest to outwit his coaching counterpart the next night.
Green certainly made the proper tactical changes to reverse the Chicago result and last year, in the only such arrangement, against Pittsburgh, he enjoyed a four-goal victory two nights after enduring a four-goal defeat.
"I loved the back-to-back scheduling in junior (hockey)," said Green, who led Peterborough to the Memorial Cup before joining the Washington organization. "They're good for the rivalry. It's the way it was back in the days when the NHL had only six teams.
"You know the opposition that much more, they are fresh in your minds and you know how to attack them better.
"At Peterborough, we always played at home on Thursday night and went to the other city the next night. We were really up for the return. We'd convince everybody that if our bus beat their bus to the next city, we'd win the game. The driver used to get a lot of pressure to put the pedal down.
"Ironically, we have the first flight to St. Louis Saturday."
Washington center Rolf Edberg still is bothered by a pulled muscle in the lower back and his availability for tonight will be determined at this morning's skate. Also missing practice yesterday were two who definitely will play -- Bengt Gustafsson, resting an assortment of bruises, and Yvon Labre, summoned to meet the immigration folks.
Following tonight's game, there will be an auction benefitting Ronald McDonald House, in which players' services will be available to the highest bidder. Among the more interesting items are a pair of Sasson jeans, with Mulvey in them; a dinner prepared at the bidder's home by Dennis Maruk, assisted by butlers Jean Pronovost and Bob Kelly, and a professional rubdown "for ladies only" by trainer Gump Embro.
One item offers a chance to acquire the services of any Capital for any purpose. Rumor has it rookie Darren Veitch plans to use his bonus money to buy Kelly and shave him.