Applications are now in the mail for Washington Capitals playoff tickets, and it appears certain there will be no public sale of tickets -- except as tie-ins with 1985-86 orders.

The club's 5,951 season ticket holders will be allowed to buy as many tickets as desired for the playoffs, which will begin April 10.

Additionally, the 4,125 holders of 10-game plans have been guaranteed tickets, and from 600 to 800 seats are set aside for the NHL, the visiting team and visiting press.

That should exhaust Capital Centre's 18,130 capacity, according to Lew Strudler, the Capitals' marketing director.

"Our initial response thus far, in a very brief time frame, indicates that there will be no public sale," Strudler said.

"Although some companies are not likely to pick up playoff tickets, because their budgets are based on the regular season only, it appears that the overwhelming number of season ticket holders will be buying extra tickets."

Strudler reported that one season ticket holder wanted to buy 50 additional tickets. Although the unlimited ticket option seems to invite abuse with the possibility of wholesale scalping, Strudler said the team felt it owed a great deal to season ticket holders.

"These are the people who are out there when we play Winnipeg on Wednesday night," Strudler said. "They're the backbone of our operation, and we want to treat them right."

The Capitals also want to increase their season ticket base. So, for a limited time, fans can assure playoff tickets this spring by signing up for a season ticket or a 10-game plan for 1985-86.

The regular, nondiscounted prices for divisional playoff tickets will be $20, $18 and $14, with tickets to the conference and Stanley Cup finals at $24, $22 and $18.

Although those constitute increases ranging from $1.50 to $4 over last year's playoff prices, the Capitals' figures still will be among the lowest, if not the lowest, in the NHL.

"With such great interest in the team for the first time, I'm sure we could get $30," Strudler said. "But that's not the way we want to go. We're still trying to get our presence firmly entrenched in Washington, and we want to do the right thing."

The Capitals' attendance has been good from the start of the season, when 17,441 attended the home opener against Philadelphia.

Last night's sellout for the Flyers' visit was the fifth of the season, an all-time high. The current average is 13,735, more than 1,300 a game over the 1982-83 season, when figures were inflated by the "Save the Caps" campaign.

Two of the more surprisingly large crowds have been the 13,153 for Pittsburgh on a snowy Thursday in January and the 17,823 for Friday's game against Los Angeles.

"Probably the most startling figure since I've been here was the one I got at 3 o'clock Friday, that only 1,736 tickets were left for the Kings game," Strudler said.

"We took a chance playing the Friday-Saturday home games, knowing that the Friday game would be overshadowed by the Flyers. But with no NBA this weekend (because of the league's All-Star Game today), we wanted to use both dates, and we felt Friday-Saturday would do better than Wednesday-Saturday."

Strudler predicted that the absence of a public sale for the playoffs was merely the forerunner of a similar situation next season for games against such popular teams as Edmonton, the Islanders and Philadelphia.

"Our goal next year is 7,000 season tickets and 6,000 partials," he said. "If we reach them, and I believe we will, it will mean the top 10 games will be sold out before public sale. Tickets to see the Caps play Edmonton will be just as hard to get as tickets to see the Redskins play Dallas."