The Herb Brooks story in New York and the Gary Green story in Washington reflect similarities in plot. Both coaches came to the National Hockey League anxious to implement innovative tactics, refined during successful tenures at lower levels.

Green had won Canada's junior championship, the Memorial Cup, with Peterborough. Brooks had guided the University of Minnesota to three NCAA titles, then led the United States to an Olympic gold medal.

Each was considered a tactical genius by those outside the NHL. Old-line professional types scorned the detailed system of Green and the motion offense of Brooks, however, and waited to see them stub their toes.

Green failed, making the game too complicated for his players. Brooks started as if headed toward a similar disaster, with startling losses to Detroit, Winnipeg and Minnesota. But while Green was unable to modify his approach, Brooks quickly conceded that his players could not absorb his thoughts and simplified things. Since that 7-0 embarrassment on Oct. 10 in Brooks' old stomping ground in Minnesota, the Rangers have hovered near the .500 mark, 12-13-3 entering last night's game at Pittsburgh.

Complicating Brooks' task has been a succession of injuries that dwarfs even the league-leading totals of recent Washington teams. When the Rangers entertain the Capitals tonight (WTOP-1500 at 8), they will be missing goalies John Davidson, back problems, and Steve Baker, torn groin muscle; defensemen Ron Greschner, strained back, and Tim Bothwell, pulled stomach muscles, and forwards Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson and Don Maloney, all victims of knee damage.

That is a better nucleus off the ice than many teams have on it and, for a kicker, defenseman Barry Beck will be serving the third of a six-game suspension for leaving the bench to fight Pittsburgh's Paul Baxter.

"We have a base we can build upon when we get some of our people back," Brooks said. "We've got people busting everything and doing a fine job. We're in good condition and we have good work habits. We're staying within the system and working well without the puck.

"The good foundation is borne out by our goals against. We're competitive and 12 wins, in view of our goals scored (106 as of yesterday, with only Hartford and Colorado scoring less), show we're getting the most out of what we have out there."

Like Green, Brooks has been unable to produce a capable power play, a touch of irony since these manipulators of chess pieces would figure to be at their best with one of the opponents removed from consideration. The Rangers' extra-man percentage of 16.9 ranks 19th, topping only St. Louis and Colorado.

"We've been struggling on the power play," Brooks said. "Teams can take the extra penalty against us and be more aggressive against us. We're just not a very high-scoring team. To take a low-scoring team and build a tremendous power play is not an impossible task, and we've got to stick with it, but it's a difficult task with the people we've got."

Brooks appeared to have a difficult task winning over the critical New York media, especially after the sorry start, but he has proven to be a charmer and one veteran New York hockey observer said, "The media is sold on him. He's sold some of his players, too, but some don't take him seriously. Of course, they may not take anyone seriously."

After a recent game, a tough loss to Philadelphia, Brooks not only answered questions without rancor, but used diagrams to explain why a suggestion that he use Nick Fotiu in front of the net on the power play was not in the club's best interests.

"I think I have a good relationship with the media," Brooks said. "I don't expect any cheerleading in New York. Some nights we've talked for hours after a game."

A big point in Brooks' favor is his ability to provide catchy quotes.

After Greschner joined the bulging injury Brooks, Rangers Survive an Inauspicious Start -By Robert Fachet Washington Post Staff Writer

The Herb Brooks story in New York and the Gary Green story in Washington reflect similarities in plot. Both coaches came to the National Hockey League anxious to implement innovative tactics, refined during successful tenures at lower levels.

Green had won Canada's junior championship, the Memorial Cup, with Peterborough. Brooks had guided the University of Minnesota to three NCAA titles, then led the United States to an Olympic gold medal.

Each was considered a tactical genius by those outside the NHL. Old-line professional types scorned the detailed system of Green and the motion offense of Brooks, however, and waited to see them stub their toes.

Green failed, making the game too complicated for his players. Brooks started as if headed toward a similar disaster, with startling losses to Detroit, Winnipeg and Minnesota. But while Green was unable to modify his approach, Brooks quickly conceded that his players could not absorb his thoughts and simplified things. Since that 7-0 embarrassment on Oct. 10 in Brooks' old stomping ground in Minnesota, the Rangers have hovered near the .500 mark, 12-13-3 entering last night's game at Pittsburgh.

Complicating Brooks' task has been a succession of injuries that dwarfs even the league-leading totals of recent Washington teams. When the Rangers entertain the Capitals tonight (WTOP-1500 at 8), they will be missing goalies John Davidson, back problems, and Steve Baker, torn groin muscle; defensemen Ron Greschner, strained back, and Tim Bothwell, pulled stomach muscles, and forwards Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson and Don Maloney, all victims of knee damage.

That is a better nucleus off the ice than many teams have on it and, for a kicker, defenseman Barry Beck will be serving the third of a six-game suspension for leaving the bench to fight Pittsburgh's Paul Baxter.

"We have a base we can build upon when we get some of our people back," Brooks said. "We've got people busting everything and doing a fine job. We're in good condition and we have good work habits. We're staying within the system and working well without the puck.

"The good foundation is borne out by our goals against. We're competitive and 12 wins, in view of our goals scored (106 as of yesterday, with only Hartford and Colorado scoring less), show we're getting the most out of what we have out there."

Like Green, Brooks has been unable to produce a capable power play, a touch of irony since these manipulators of chess pieces would figure to be at their best with one of the opponents removed from consideration. The Rangers' extra-man percentage of 16.9 ranks 19th, topping only St. Louis and Colorado.

"We've been struggling on the power play," Brooks said. "Teams can take the extra penalty against us and be more aggressive against us. We're just not a very high-scoring team. To take a low-scoring team and build a tremendous power play is not an impossible task, and we've got to stick with it, but it's a difficult task with the people we've got."

Brooks appeared to have a difficult task winning over the critical New York media, especially after the sorry start, but he has proven to be a charmer and one veteran New York hockey observer said, "The media is sold on him. He's sold some of his players, too, but some don't take him seriously. Of course, they may not take anyone seriously."

After a recent game, a tough loss to Philadelphia, Brooks not only answered questions without rancor, but used diagrams to explain why a suggestion that he use Nick Fotiu in front of the net on the power play was not in the club's best interests.

"I think I have a good relationship with the media," Brooks said. "I don't expect any cheerleading in New York. Some nights we've talked for hours after a game."

A big point in Brooks' favor is his ability to provide catchy quotes.

After Greschner joined the bulging injury list, Brooks said, "I should buy stock in Johnson & Johnson."

On Finnish defenseman Reijo Ruotsalainen: "Rexy plays all five positions at once. I don't know where he comes from, where he's going or how he got there . . . Imagine what he could do if he could speak English."

On Fotiu: "Nick always works hard. We're just trying to coordinate his mind with his legs. Sometimes it's hard to get them together."

In Boston, Don Cherry was sidetracked as coach in part because his boss, Harry Sinden, was jealous of Cherry's monopoly of the sports pages. There is no such problem with the Rangers.

"Herb has good rapport with the media and nobody is happier about than I am," said General Manager Craig Patrick, who battled the media much of last season when he also served as coach. "Herb gives them so many good lines, they leave me alone."