The Washington Capitals have a friendly feeling for the Calgary Flames, tonight's 7:30 opponent at Capital Centre.
For one thing, Washington achieved a milestone at Calgary's expense last season, sweeping the three-game series by a combined score of 22-12.
For another, the Flames in the past year have provided the Capitals with four players and a general manager. All four -- goalie Pat Riggin, defenseman Randy Holt and forwards Bobby Gould and Ken Houston -- were acquired before David Poile left his longtime assistant GM role with the Flames to become boss of hockey operations here.
Riggin, although overshadowed by Al Jensen's recent heroics, has performed capably in his last three appearances and is likely to receive the assignment tonight. He was outstanding in road ties at Chicago and New Jersey, after a slow start attributed to subpar conditioning and concern about his wife's pregnancy.
"I love it here," Riggin said yesterday. "If I play tomorrow, I want to do well, naturally, but I'll have to be careful not to overpysch. You can hurt yourself that way.
"I won't be trying to show them (the Flames) anything special. They know I can play goal. Obviously, they wanted Donnie Edwards and there was no room for me with him there."
Houston, who spent the last seven seasons with the Flames, was dealt here with Riggin in June for defenseman Howard Walker, winger George White, a No. 3 draft pick in 1983 and a No. 2 choice in 1984. The trade was conditional on Houston's health, because he suffered from hepatitis the last two years, but he is no longer on medication and has been a standout for the Capitals, with seven goals and six assists.
"It seems strange to be standing here watching them rather than being out on the ice with them," Houston said while the Flames practiced at Fort Dupont yesterday. "But that's part of the game. You don't lose friends, you just see less of them.
"We're playing well and they're playing well, so maybe everybody is satisfied with the trades. It's certainly worked out well for me."
Gould is another who has become a steady contributor in Washington. He was in Oklahoma City last November, when he and Holt were sent to Washington for defenseman Pat Ribble and a second-round draft pick in 1983.
Playing with Glen Currie and Gaetan Duchesne on a tough-checking line, Gould has scored four goals and recorded a plus-three rating.
"I could never understand how we were able to get Bobby Gould," said Coach Bryan Murray. "He never stops working, he's an excellent defensive player and he's added something to us offensively, too."
"I've still got the feeling that I'd like to do particularly well against the Flames," Gould said. "They were my first team and when I was traded, I looked at the schedule to see how many games we had with them. It turned out to be three and it made me feel good that we won them all.
"I can see why they let me go. They were losing and had to make changes, and I was kind of an odd man out. It's turned out to be good for me."
For Holt, Calgary became the fifth stop and Washington the sixth in an NHL career that began in Chicago in 1975.
"There's not much feeling about it now, because most of the guys I played with are gone," Holt said. "It's not quite a year, but there are only five or six left who were there when I was."
Although Holt did not play in Saturday's victory over the New York Islanders, he probably will dress tonight, because Timo Blomqvist is ill. Holt has been in Murray's doghouse since receiving back-to-back slashing penalties in Wednesday's shutout of New Jersey.
Blomqvist left yesterday's practice after only a half hour and said, "I've had headaches and I've felt sick for a week. I have no power to skate anymore."
Calgary has been here since Sunday, giving Houston's old pals time to enter the Capitals' dressing room at Fort Dupont and rearrange his equipment . . . A victory would put Washington at .500 and in sole possession of third place in the Patrick Division . . . Ribble, who began the season with Colorado of the Central League, has been with the Flames for three weeks, playing a regular shift alongside Phil Russell . . . Tonight's game matches the defensive stars of Kitchener's 1982 Memorial Cup champions, Scott Stevens of Washington and Allan MacInnis of Calgary . . . Lanny McDonald of Calgary is tied for second in the league in goal-scoring with 16. Peter Stastny of Quebec has 17.