When the Washington Capitals returned Wes Jarvis to Hershey in February, he went uncomplainingly, but with one regret: "I just wish they'd given me a chance to center the No. 1 line (of Ryan Walter and Mike Gartner)."

In training camp, Jarvis not only was not given that chance, but with the signing of Bobby Carpenter he was automatically targeted for a return to Hershey, where he had started the previous two seasons before earning calls to Washington.

"It was the same story as last year and I was disappointed, but I knew I was going to play a lot, so I just decided to give it my best shot again and look forward to coming back to the NHL," Jarvis said.

Jarvis, 23, was leading the Bears in scoring Oct. 30, when he was summoned to join a Washington team that had stumbled through nine straight defeats. Before the streak ended at 13, Coach Bryan Murray had been called up, too, and suddenly Jarvis was given the opportunity he sought.

Murray, after first placing Jarvis between Gaetan Duchesne and Tony Cassolato, altered his plans and assigned him to the No. 1 line, centering Gartner and Carpenter, who had been moved to left wing to ease some of the pressure he was encountering.

On Wednesday, as the Capitals defeated Colorado, 7-1, Carpenter scored twice while making 10 shots on goal. Gartner scored once in four shots and had four assists. Jarvis did not put a shot on net, but he was a key figure in the line's success and his rating improved to plus four, the only plus on the team.

"Everyone wants a chance to center good hockey players," Jarvis said. "Both Bobby and Garts are superfast skaters. Mike is a proven star in this league and down the line Bobby will probably be a superstar in a couple of years.

"I can pass the puck, I always could, and I just give it to them and play to their game, filling the holes for them and keeping an eye out defensively. They have so much talent, you have to let them play their game."

"Wes is a creative centerman, he's smart with the puck and he's unselfish," Gartner said. "Myself and Bobby have the speed and he gets us the puck."

Murray is pleased with the way the trio has meshed, even more because the shift of Tim Tookey to the third line upgrades that unit, as well.

"Tim likes to handle the puck and he's better when he does," Murray said. "He's creative with the puck and he adds quickness to the third line. Playing with Carpenter and Gartner, he didn't get to handle it much.

"Wes Jarvis knows his shortcoming, which is lack of speed, but he's a good passer, an intelligent hockey player and he's willing to feed the puck. He also shows good defensive thinking. Carpenter will make the odd mistake, trying to do too much, and Wes will cover up for him.

"Wes was a 14th-round draft choice and nobody really felt he would make a contribution over a long period of time. But he's willing, he's a good team man and, the way he's playing right now, I'd say he's found a home here."

Washington officials always have rated Glen Currie over Jarvis, but Currie is now in Hershey after he got the first callup this year and failed to impress.

"Glen is a quicker skater, he has more size and he's defensively sound," Murray said. "Individually, he can do more things. But he doesn't handle the puck or pass as well as Wes. Also, he is not as strong physically. Wes is always in top form and he can play hard night after night."

The Capitals returned Cassolato and defenseman Jay Johnston to Hershey yesterday. Cassolato had one assist in four games. Johnston played sparingly in three appearances . . . Left wing Torrie Robertson is a good bet to be called up from Hershey for the weekend series against the Flyers . . . Goalie Mike Palmateer missed yesterday's practice while his knee was drained of fluid, but is expected to play in Philadelphia Sunday . . . Dave Parro, his goals-against average down to 3.22, is the likely starter Saturday when the Flyers visit Capital Centre.