Bobby Carpenter, the Washington Capitals' first-round draft choice, is expected in town Thursday to get his first glimpse of Capital Centre and to meet the team's general manager, Max McNab. The youngster's father, Bob Sr., and the family lawyer, Jack Herlihy, are expected to come, too.

Bobby Carpenter could not be reached for comment yesterday, but his mother said the threesome would be in Washington only a few hours -- not long enough to agree on a contract.

"They're meeting just to get to know each other, as far as I know," Ann Carpenter said.

Young Carpenter, a star center for St. John's Prep in Danvers, Mass., spent the summer at home in Peabody, Mass., playing hockey and trying to decide whether to enter Providence College this fall as a freshman or join the Capitals as a rookie.

Last week, Carpenter said he would decide by Aug. 14.

Meanwhile, the Capitals' management has launched a low-key campaign to sign the 6-foot-1, 185-pound skater. There have been phone calls and Coach Gary Green took the Carpenters to dinner during the National Sports Festival last month in Syracuse, N.Y.

McNab said earlier this week that he was optimistic that Carpenter will decide to put off his education and head for training camp in Hershey next month.

"We've never failed to sign our first-round draft choice and we're in the ballpark with finances," McNab said. "This is a gigantic decision (for Carpenter) . . . and we don't feel badly about the time lag on this.

"We don't want him ever looking back if he signs," said McNab.