Tonight, for the first time since April 8, 1979, the Washington Capitals will play a game that is meaningless in the National Hockey League standings. it will be in Pittsburgh (WTOP-1500 at 7:30) against the team that eliminated the Capitals from playoff contention at Capital Centre Sunday.

It will not be meaningless for defenseman Eric Calder, however. Calder, the Capitals' third-round draft pick in 1981, is to make his NHL debut. He has been practicing with the Capitals for a week, since his Cornwall junior club was eliminated from the Ontario playoffs.

"I've enjoyed the practices, but I'm really looking forward to getting some ice time," said Calder, who is 6 feet 1 and weighs 185 pounds.

"Calder will play tomorrow and probably he and (Mike) Siltala will play Saturday (in Toronto)," Coach Bryan Murray of the Capitals said. "We want to see what they can do. We're still going out there to win, though. I don't want this hockey team to be embarrassed."

Defenseman Randy Holt will be eligible to play tonight. He was present at a hearing in Montreal yesterday before NHL Executive Director Brian O'Neill and a ruling will be issued Thursday on any further punishment resulting from his scrap with linesman Paul Flaherty during Saturday's 4-4 tie with Philadelphia. Holt received a double game misconduct and was automatically suspended from Sunday's 6-5 loss to Pittsburgh.

Winger Tom Rowe has been returned to Hershey.