Last week, before the Washington Capitals flew to Toronto, former Maple Leaf goalie Mike Palmateer limped up to Coach Bryan Murray and said, "I can play on one leg and win in Toronto."

Murray demurred. So, while Palmateer nursed his swollen right knee at home, the Leafs defeated the Capitals and Al Jensen, 9-4.

Yesterday, when the team returned from another defeat, 7-3 in Chicago, Palmateer was waiting to inform Murray that he was ready to play once again. Perhaps coincidentally, the Maple Leafs are tonight's 8 o'clock visitors to Capital Centre.

Having watched Dave Parro fight the pain in his left shoulder in Chicago, Murray this time was willing to give Palmateer the start, his first since he was ravaged for five goals in 33 minutes at Hartford Nov. 28. Two days later, Palmateer underwent an untimely arthroscopy to flush loose particles from the knee.

"He hasn't been skating, so we'll have to look at him tomorrow morning before we decide," Murray said. "I'm just hopeful that he can go. We just have to get one of those two guys playing. We have to beat teams like Toronto and goaltending is a big part of it. We're not going to score a lot of goals on a regular basis."

Parro was in obvious pain throughout his 20-minute stint in Chicago and permitted four goals on 10 shots before Jensen replaced him. Although he tried to take the blame for the loss, Parro had gotten little help from a defense turned sour.

"We've got to make some moves," said General Manager Roger Crozier, who was tempted in Chicago by a proffered deal involving some of the Hawks' surplus talent. "We've got a tough road schedule this month and we can't afford to get buried too soon."

The only action Crozier took yesterday was to settle the contract of utility man Alan Hangsleben. Hangsleben's contract was extended to June 1984, and he received one-third of the remaining salary. He had not played since Nov. 25 in Minnesota.

A defeat of Toronto tonight would tie team records of six straight home victories and seven home games without a defeat.