The Washington Capitals, in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, recalled defenseman Darren Veitch and demoted Pierre Bouchard for tonight's 7:35 opener of a four-game home stand against the Minnesota North Stars.

Veitch, the Capitals' 1980 top draft pick, will start on the right side and see power-play duty tonight against the Stanley Cup finalists.Veitch will replace Greg Theberge, who is out indefinitely with a hip pointer.

Bouchard, who still is having trouble breathing from a bashed nose he suffered in training camp, has been "loaned" to Hershey for what McNab called "much-needed game conditioning."

"We've dug a hole for ourselves," McNab said, "so every game now becomes a cliffhanger. We want desperately to close the gap between ourselves and the (New York) Rangers. Our success in this home stand is very directly related to our playoff chances."

the Capitals were 0-3-1 last season against the North Stars while being outscored, 11-6. Minnesota (7-2-2) has the third-best record in the National Hockey League. The Caps are 1-11.

"We know that the North Stars are on the top of their game right now," McNab said. "This game will be as mentally tough for us as it will be physically."

McNab said the team was an "inch away" from winning or tying three of its four straight road games.

"If there's one thing I'd like to see more of in this home stand," McNab said, "it would be timeliness in scoring. We just don't seem to have the capability or the killer instinct to get goals at the right time. We're lacking aggressiveness at the right time."

After tonight's game against Minnesota, the Capitals face the Rangers on Saturday, Pittsburgh on Nov. 11 and Detroit Nov. 13. The Capitals are hoping to close in on the Rangers, who are 4-8 and in fourth place in the Patrick Division.