It has been two weeks since Dave Parro was struck on the left shoulder by a Mike Gartner shot in practice, and the Washington Capitals' No. 1 goalie still is unable to play.

Parro practiced Monday and today, but in each case he hardly used his glove (left) hand. So, although Coach Bryan Murray holds an outside hope for Parro, it seems virtually certain that Al Jensen will make his fourth straight start Wednesday night when the Capitals play the Black Hawks here (WTOP-1500 at 8:30).

"It's still painful," Parro said after today's practice at the Fort Dupont rink in Washington. "The nerve is badly pinched. My index finger was numb yesterday. I try and use the arm and suffer through the pain, because it's the only way it will get better, but if I overuse the arm it tires out. It's frustrating. I can't say when I'll be able to play."

"With a nerve, I'm told it could get better all of a sudden," Murray said. "We'll play it by ear till game time almost."

Rollie Boutin is back in Hershey and Peter Sidorkiewicz has been returned to Oshawa because the Capitals expected both Parro and Mike Palmateer to be ready by Wednesday. When Parro was hurt Nov. 25 in Minnesota, the doctor who examined him said he would be playing again in a week.

Palmateer has not practiced since he underwent an arthroscopy procedure to remove particles from his right knee Nov. 30. The knee was still badly swollen today and he was left at home with instructions to see a doctor Wednesday.

Defenseman Darren Veitch, who missed Monday's practice with a tender left hamstring, was on the ice today, but he had difficulty taking his shots from the point. He will play Wednesday with the hamstring heavily taped.

"I felt better today, but I could feel some pain whenever I tried to put a lot of weight on it to shoot," Veitch said.

Murray did not make any line changes, despite the poor performance by the third line centered by Tim Tookey in the 9-4 loss in Toronto Saturday.

"I'm not going to overreact to one game," Murray said. "Things were going so well before and I hope we can regain that form quickly."

Today's practice was largely devoted to the power play. That has been a strong point since Murray took over, with 20 goals in 76 opportunities. Under Gary Green, the club scored only 10 times in 60 advantages.

"I've been trying to add some things in stages and today we worked on one new wrinkle," Murray said. "On the road, you don't have a chance to do much, because everybody is watching you."

The Capitals will be on the road for four of their next five games, visiting Pittsburgh, Montreal and Long Island after a Friday home date with Toronto.

Chicago could be the toughest test in that sequence. The Hawks are unbeaten in their last 11 home games, following an Oct. 14 loss to Boston, and their strong wingers take advantage of the ice surface, which at 188 feet is the shortest in the NHL.

The best of those wingers is Al Secord, a brawler who became a scorer after coming here from Boston a year ago. Secord has recorded 21 goals in 26 games and has served 80 penalty minutes.

Chicago's leading scorer is center Denis Savard, 20, who has compiled 43 points on 13 goals and 30 assists. Winger Darryl Sutter has been another standout, with 15 goals.

Doug Wilson, the club's best defenseman who was coveted by Washington last summer, suffered a broken jaw when he was struck by a puck Nov. 25. He had 29 points and his absence, along with an extended road trip, contributed to a five-game winless streak that ended with Saturday's victory in Los Angeles.

Fourth in the NHL in goals scored with 120, the Hawks have yielded 112, six more than Washington, as goalie Tony Esposito has struggled with a 4.34 goals-against mark. Parro, by contrast, stands at 3.28.