Left wing Gaetan Duchesne will be watching from a Capital Centre seat tonight when the Washington Capitals begin their 40-game home schedule against the Philadelphia Flyers at 7:30.
Duchesne suffered a broken bone in his left hand as he killed a penalty during the Capitals' 2-2 season-opening tie with the Flyers in Philadelphia Thursday.
Gary Sampson, a regular late last season and during the playoffs, was recalled from Binghamton to take Duchesne's place on the Gee Whiz Line with Glen Currie and Bob Gould.
It was the first major career injury for Duchesne, who is expected to be out from four to six weeks. He was hurt when, playing without a stick, he dove to block a slap shot by Mark Howe and then followed the puck, hand first, into the boards.
For a final unpleasant touch, Duchesne was penalized on the play for covering the puck with his hand, leaving Washington two men short and opening the way for a goal by Ilkka Sinisalo that created a 1-1 tie.
"I never broke anything before, so I never knew that feeling -- the pain -- before," Duchesne said. "I lost my stick when I tried to freeze the puck in the corner and two guys came to it. Then I just tried to block the shot.
"I felt it then -- it was so painful. But I kept after the puck and went into the boards. I got up and I thought, 'Holy smoke, my hand.'
"There shouldn't have been a penalty, because my hand wasn't even on the puck. Besides, he had warned me before, so I knew I couldn't cover it."
The worst part of the injury, from the standpoint of both Duchesne and the team, was that he had been playing so well during the exhibition season. "I was counting on him for 20 or 25 goals," said Coach Bryan Murray. "He was doing a lot of things he hadn't done before, just playing with so much confidence."
"In training camp I was very healthy and I never felt so good," Duchesne said. "I did things I never did before. Then this happens. But it could be worse.
"I'm happy it wasn't my wrist. Sometimes they never heal. And I'm happy it wasn't my legs. I can still keep my shape skating every day.
"Maybe I can come back sooner than the doctors say, even if I just kill penalties. For me, I said two weeks. The doctors decided more. It will be hard for me. I like to play all the time. If I had two legs broken, I'd still like to play."
Duchesne is the second winger to be hurt after enjoying an outstanding training camp. Bryan Erickson suffered a broken thumb in an exhibition against Hartford Oct. 3 and is not expected back before Oct. 24, at the earliest.
Sampson joined the Capitals for a brief look after the Olympics and the plan was to farm him out. However, he played so well that he remained a regular through the playoffs. He was sent to Binghamton a week ago after he proved less impressive this fall.
"I just felt he hadn't worked hard this summer," Murray said. "The jump he had in the spring wasn't there. But he's the best equipped to move onto that line. He's good at getting the puck out of the zone."
There will be other changes in the Capitals' lineup tonight. Dave Shand, who manned the walkie-talkie behind the bench Thursday, will be on the ice this time, exchanging places with Timo Blomqvist.
Blomqvist suffered a bruised hand while blocking a shot Oct. 4 and it continues to bother him. When he complained about the pain yesterday, it gave Larry Murphy a chance to atone for his poor play Thursday.
Murphy had been targeted for the bench by Murray after that contest. It must be noted, however, that Murphy bore no responsibility for Tim Kerr's tying goal, as was indicated here yesterday. The culprits were Scott Stevens, who permitted Len Hachborn to slip away from him along the boards, and Bob Carpenter, who lost track of Kerr and made it easy for him to convert Hachborn's pass.
Carpenter, who started at center Thursday and later scored a goal as a left wing, will be on the left side tonight, playing with Dave Christian and Alan Haworth. Bengt Gustafsson will move to center, between Andre Hidi and Mike Gartner.
"Gus and Dave Christian played well together, but I'm not really satisfied with the lines," Murray said. "Gus is creative and maybe he can get better use out of Mike Gartner. Gus looked good at center with the Swedish team.
"Anytime Bobby is on the wing, he's scored goals. He should get chances with Christian, who was one of the few guys who I thought played well against the Flyers."
Pat Riggin, the 34-save hero of Thursday's tie, will be back in the Washington net.
"He deserves the home opener, the way he played last night and during the entire preseason," Murray said.
Craig Laughlin, who suffered a 12-stitch cut on his nose Thursday, had some good news. His nose was not cracked, as had been feared.
Although tickets remain available, the game is certain to attract the largest paid crowd of any Washington home opener. The record attendance of 16,712 in 1977 included approximately 5,000 freebies.