The Gee Whiz Line, so instrumental in the Washington Capitals' successful 1983-84 season, will be reunited tonight in St. Louis, where the Capitals commence a difficult six-game stretch that includes five road contests.
Glen Currie, back from two weeks of indecisive labor in Binghamton, was centering old pals Gaetan Duchesne and Bob Gould at yesterday's practice at Mount Vernon. Currie is well aware that Coach Bryan Murray is giving both him and defenseman Dave Shand a final exam of sorts. Either they produce or face waivers and a much longer stay in the minors.
"I'm sure we'll be going Tuesday," Currie said. "It's one way of getting back. Certainly, we were successful playing together last year. I wasn't surprised to go down. I kind of felt it was coming, because there were hints toward it. But when I first got down there, I was a fourth-line center without much ice time. Eventually, I was put at left wing next to Paul Gardner and I finally got a goal. I hope I can carry it over."
Murray said that both Currie and Shand had been promised that if they played well in Binghamton, they would be given a fair chance here on their return. Since scout Ron Lapointe reported that Currie looked good and Shand was the Whalers' best defenseman, both will be in the Washington lineup tonight.
"Glen Currie had his success playing with Gould and Duchesne," Murray said. "We want to give Glen a real good shot and his best opportunity should be playing with those guys. I've got some loyalty for him. The guy did play awfully well for us."
Center Dean Evason practiced with the Capitals yesterday before rejoining Binghamton. Management wants him playing, rather than merely watching, while Currie gets his chance over the next few games.
Even with Evason gone, three Capitals must sit out each night. Winger Gary Sampson and defensemen Timo Blomqvist and Peter Andersson are the odd men out tonight. Greg Adams will watch Wednesday's game in Minnesota, along with two others to be determined following the game in St. Louis.
The Capitals return home Saturday to play the New York Rangers, then face successive road games against the Rangers, Quebec and Montreal.
The Capitals passed the one-third mark of the season with Sunday's 4-0 triumph over Detroit, in which Duchesne and Gould sparkled on a line with Doug Jarvis.
In most categories, the club is ahead of the 27-game pace of a year ago. With a 13-9-5 record, it has 31 points, five more than last season, and has scored 16 more goals (108) while yielding 11 fewer (86).
It will be remembered that the Capitals were below .500 as late as Jan. 7, before a 14-game unbeaten streak propelled them to prominence.
There are some dramatic reasons for the greater early success this time. No. 1 is the play of Bob Carpenter, whose 21 goals at the one-third mark dwarf last season's figure of six. Scott Stevens has compiled five goals and 16 assists, compared to two and three, respectively.
Bryan Erickson, who spent much of the first third in Hershey a year ago, has rolled up nine goals and five assists, while Sampson, who played with the U.S. Olympic team, has registered seven goals and five assists.
The Capitals' power play has been far more effective, 22.2 percent this season compared to 17.4, but the penalty killing has shown a huge decline, from 86.5 to 74.0.
The principal individual dropoff relates to Bengt Gustafsson's hamstring pull. He has only four assists; a year ago at this time, he was the club's leading scorer with 11 goals and 21 assists.