For 3 1/2 seasons in the American Hockey League, Dave Parro wondered what it would be like to tend goal in the big time, the National Hockey League. Now, because of ill fortunes that have afflicted the more celebrated netminders for the Washington Capitals, Parro has been able to make an interesting observation: the NHL is easier.

"The tempo of play is much faster and the shooters are more accurate, but for a goaltender it's a lot easier," Parro said. "The guys play their positions better and it's not that scrambly, so the goaltender can play the shooter a lot better. The defensemen stand them up and play the body better, and you can concentrate on your job."

Parro's record pretty well proves his point. In Hershey this season, he posted a 4.31 goals-against average. In three games with Washington, the mark is 3.33.After a rocky initiation in Edmonton, he was chosen No. 2 star in a 3-2 loss at Minnesota, then was voted No. 1 in a 2-1 victory at Colorado.

If Parro is finding the NHL easier, however, the same cannot be said of defenseman Darren Veitch, the club's No. 1 draft choice. Veitch, who was shipped to Hershey in December but quickly recalled because of injuries, went back to the farm yesterday. His place will be taken by Yvon Labre, whose knee has responded well to treatment.

Tonight, Parro makes his Capital Centre debut in a 7:30 contest against Los Angeles and one would expect him to be feeling the pressure. Not only is Rollie Boutin waiting in the wings for another chance, but in about a week Mike Palmateer and Wayne Stephenson figure to return, so Parro must continue to play excellently just to remain on the roster. One bad performance and Hershey probably would be beckoning.