The Washington Capitals have a curious record going into tonight's 8 o'clock Capital Centre game against the St. Louis Blues. In seven road games, the Capitals have gleaned seven points; in four Centre contests, they have earned only one.
To appreciate this state of affairs, one need only glance at the National Hockey League record book. Through the years, Montreal is the lone team to better .500 on opposition rinks; Washington, Winnipeg and New Jersey-Colorado-Kansas City are the only sub-.500 clubs at home.
There are as many theories for the Capitals' nonconformance as there are officials and players in the organization. There also is one point of agreement: the situation will change in the coming week, with visits by the Blues, Hartford and New Jersey.
"There has been a lot of pressure on the players to win at home, with the big crowds the guaranteed sellouts were bringing in," said Coach Bryan Murray. "We went in there early and played pretty good hockey teams and we weren't playing nearly as well as we did the last two games. We pressed, because everybody wanted to play awfully well.
"On the road, the players work harder at helping each other out. At home, they tend to do too much themselves and they get in trouble. I've seen some real good signs the last week, though. The guys are working together and I think if we get ahead in our building, you'll see us blow some teams out."
"We're .500 on the road and that's a good sign," said Mike Gartner, the team's high scorer with 14 points. "I don't feel pressure at home, although maybe it's felt by the team in general. It's just one of those things. We haven't gotten started shaking that image at home.
"People at home still think we're the old Washington Capitals. The people in this room know we're the new Washington Capitals and we can see ourselves getting better every game."
"I think we played three pretty good games at home," said winger Ken Houston, whose five goals have been scored on the road. "We had only one bad game, against Buffalo, but we deserved better against Philadelphia, Montreal and Minnesota. I'd rather talk about how well we've played on the road. As the season goes along, that will be important."
"I love playing on the road," said center Bobby Carpenter. "There are a lot of people at the road games and when they get going, they get you going. New York is the best; when they start booing you, it really charges you up.
"I have more confidence on the road. The idea is just to score and win, not to put on a show. It's so much easier to play and on game day you can just concentrate on the game, where at home you're distracted by things, like whether the steak will thaw in time for dinner."
Carpenter, Bengt Gustafsson and Milan Novy scored the goals that tied Chicago, 3-3, Wednesday night. Pat Riggin, who provided the Capitals' best goaltending of the season, will be back in the nets tonight against the Blues, a team the Capitals beat in St. Louis on Saturday, 6-5.
Winger Alan Haworth, checked hard into the boards in Chicago, is questionable for tonight's game, pending a doctor's report that General Manager David Poile said would not be available until this morning.
Haworth was hospitalized overnight in Chicago after he reported spitting blood and complained of soreness in his side. He did not return with the team yesterday morning, but instead flew back late in the day and was immediately scheduled for an examination by team physicians.
The Washington Post has agreed to purchase any remaining unsold tickets for tonight's game. Eleven other games have been guaranteed sellouts by the Hecht Company, the Toyota Dealers Association of Greater Washington, Ogden Foods, Timesaver Inc., the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce, Grand Union, WTOP Radio, the Mid-Atlantic Coca Cola Bottling Company, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, Bill Ayars Chevrolet of Laurel, Peoples Drug and COMSAT Corporation. Several sponsored more than one game and others shared a sponsorship.