Now it's T-minus one and . . . holding.

As of today, the end of the original 30-day time limit imposed on the Washington Capitals, the hockey team was supposed to have satisfied four conditions necessary for the franchise's continued operation here.

Failure to sell 7,500 season tickets, sell out the first 10 home games and get rent and tax decreases would have finished the team's eight-year Washington run. Owner Abe Pollin said it would be sold and moved, merged with another club or dissolved.

But a few more days have to be squeezed into a summer-long campaign to keep the team in town. The Prince George's County Council will not meet until Tuesday to discuss tax relief for the Capitals.

The council is expected to approve lowering the 10 percent amusement tax to one-half of 1 percent at its Tuesday session.

Rent on Capital Centre has been reduced from 15 to 10 percent of the net after taxes. Area companies and chambers of commerce have agreed to guarantee sellouts of the 10 games and through yesterday 5,273 season tickets have been sold.

Pollin said Monday that the team's chances of relocating intact were minimal because of the time limitations. "There are still the other options of merging or disbanding," he said.

Calls to Pollin's office yesterday were not returned.

The conditions and alternatives were first outlined last month when Pollin introduced four men interested in buying part of his team. To date, the franchise has lost a reported $20 million.

Dick Patrick, Jim Lewis and Marty Irving, partners in a Virginia real estate firm, and Albert Turner, a Maryland businessman, will purchase 50 percent of the franchise if all the conditions are met.

"It would be a limited partnership," said Lewis. "As such, we wouldn't have any meaningful control."

Patrick has said Pollin and the group agreed upon those conditions as a way for the Capitals to move toward financial stability. "If all four goals are reached, it will show us, as investors, that this can work economically," he said.

But season ticket sales have stalled more than 2,000 from their target. Last year the team sold 4,200. Despite increased prices for tickets and parking, the team passed that mark more than three weeks ago.

Pollin has said earlier he thought there could be "some flexibility" about reaching the 7,500 quota, but would not commit himself to a specific number.

Patrick said last week he thought the sale of many more individual tickets to offset the low season-ticket total "would probably allow for flexibility."

Yesterday Patrick said he would not discuss anything further about the Capitals' situation until it has been resolved.

If the deal is completed, Patrick, who is from a hockey family, will serve as consultant to Pollin on hockey matters.

Throughout the team's month-long push, the NHL's position on the Capitals has remained almost determinedly optimistic.

"The Caps are there, in the Patrick Division, as far as we're concerned, and until Abe tells us differently," said John Ziegler, league president. "They have an obligation to operate. They can ask to be relieved of that obligation, of course, but we haven't been notified to that effect."

Of the merger alternative, Ziegler said consolidation of teams is a "Herculean task, because it affects different aspects of every other team in a different way. Hours, days, weeks, even months of work go on in preparation.

"I know he is disappointed at the season tickets, but there are a number of concessions Abe would have to look at. There is no shame in having 5,200 people say they'll show up."

Pollin would like to see more companies signing up for season tickets. "The individual fan has already come through," he said. "But we need the businesses behind us."

A letter from the Washington Board of Trade to its 5,000 members brought in only 20 new requests. Now the Capitals' staff is working its way through a list of follow-up calls.

Lew Strudler, the team's marketing director, said some companies preferred to sponsor a single game rather than "taking the risk of 60 or so season tickets for a full year.

"Some of our sponsors, like the Montgomery County Chambers of Commerce, usually do some 'nights' out here, and so their game becomes one 'company night,' instead of spreading them out over the season," he said.

Strudler said because some businesses have sky suites at Capital Centre, they are less inclined to buy additional blocks of tickets.

Today the team will peddle tickets at the Touchdown Club, where WTOP Radio will broadcast what it calls a "Caps-a-thon" from 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Pollin, players from the Capitals and Bullets and others will be "speaking out" to save the franchise.