According to Capitals goalie Pat Riggin, "Calgary was such a jungle, a real do-or-die situation."

He was comparing his former team with the status quo, and no special understanding was needed to figure out which Riggin preferred.

"If you lost a game in Calgary and went to the grocery store the next day, the guy selling the milk was upset with you," he said.

"The paper boy would take it out on you. In Washington, the pressure is off me more, and I'm able to enjoy hockey," said Riggin.

But Riggin, who most likely will start at 7:30 tonight when his team plays the Los Angeles Kings at Capital Centre, is pushing himself to develop into a more consistent goaltender.

"If I've changed anything in my game, it's that I'm more conservative. I'm guessing less," said Riggin, who was acquired from the Calgary Flames last summer. He has a 3.76 goals-against average, with a 7-5-5 record and four victories and three ties in his last eight games.

"I'm trying to win the 3-2 games. You don't need some nights of brilliance and others of a couple really bad mistakes. I'm trying to work out the peaks and valleys, in hockey and in my own life."

Riggin said his personality has always been like a roller coaster, and that has affected his play. "In Calgary last year, some days I felt like we could win the Stanley Cup."

"Other times I could hardly drag myself around. But I try not to bring the game home with me. That's been the biggest adjustment."

Capitals Coach Bryan Murray had paid little heed to talk labeling Riggin as an up-and-down goalie.

"When he got to training camp, he was not in the best of shape, so we had to work him hard," he said. "And he was very willing to do it. Pat at 23 obviously has a ways to go as far as what he will do in goaltending, but he works so hard in practice, and he wants to be a good goaltender, so you know he'll get better and better."

General Manager Dave Poile, who was well-acquainted with Riggin when both were with the Flames, agrees that the goalie is heading toward high-quality consistency.

"During every one of Pat's five seasons as a pro, he has shown flashes of brilliance," said Poile.

Poile said, "The Capitals are his fourth team, and the guy's only 23. When you play 80 games, there are a lot of highs and lows. Pat had a maturity problem, figuring out what he wanted for himself. Now he seems more confident.