The Washington Capitals are home for a while, which is good news for wives, children and the team's chances of making up some ground on the rest of the Patrick Division.
When the Capitals entertain the St. Louis Blues at Capital Centre tonight at 7:35, they will begin a five-week stretch in which they play 13 of 18 games at home. The five road contests are all overnight hops -- two to Pittsburgh and one each to Long Island, Boston and New Jersey.
The Capitals' early schedule, which saw them on the road for seven of nine games, was designed by management to avoid home conflicts with televised baseball. If it seemed a bit suicidal, the fact remains that the team broke even on foreign ice at 3-3-1 while failing to win either home contest.
Nevertheless, the club is happy to be home, if for no other reason than the tender loving care the players can expect when it comes to treating the numerous bruises they accumulated out west.
Defenseman Rod Langway will be idle for at least another two weeks with a strained ligament in his right knee. It remains a bewildering fact that the Capitals have never lost (2-0-1) with the captain out of the lineup.
Center Bengt Gustafsson, who missed Sunday's 4-2 triumph in Chicago, is doubtful for tonight, after the mauling his aching back took from Winnipeg's Doug Smail and Laurie Boschman. Mark Taylor, who scored on his first shift Sunday, remains available as a replacement.
Coach Bryan Murray was pleased with the Capitals' 11-goal output in the last two games, while realizing that they got away with a fair number of giveaways and indecisive plays.
"After playing seven on the road and only two at home, we now have a chance to pile up some points at home," Murray said. "We were fortunate to break even on the trip last week, but obviously there is room for improvement.
"We've played pretty well, effort wise, but maybe we need some more guys playing together. We've made some mistakes in our end that could have been costly.
"Last night we got four goals in the first period and almost went into a shell, rather than go after them. (Goalie) Al (Jensen) came up big and we hung on, but we need to force things when we get in that position."
Jensen made 37 saves Sunday as Chicago's output of 39 shots was the most against Washington since Calgary launched 45 on Oct. 25, 1984.
"Winning a game like that and playing .500 hockey on the road ought to pick the guys up," Jensen said. "We have a few home games now and we have to go from there. You could see it fall in place last night. The guys are playing together."
Although Jensen has had his problems with injuries over the years, he has never experienced the concentrated series of disasters that befell St. Louis goaltender Rick Wamsley in the last 10 days.
After opening the season with two solid victories, Wamsley was forced out of action by a bruised right hand. Then his wife experienced a miscarriage. For a final blow, it was discovered that he had a rectal abscess, requiring surgery.
Greg Millen is expected to tend the Blues' nets for the fifth straight game tonight, with rookie Darrell May as his backup.
Wearing No. 23 for the Blues will be a familiar figure to Centre fans, defenseman Lee Norwood. His NHL career seemingly ended after he was beaten up outside a Georgetown bar in the summer of 1982, but Norwood battled his way back, spending last season with Peoria in the International League.
On the ice, Norwood is best remembered for the clean check that knocked Wayne Gretzky unconscious in Edmonton. It was the off-ice incident, however, that brought Norwood to unwanted prominence.
He had attended a "Save the Caps" rally, then visited a bar, where three disgruntled youths mistook him for the bouncer who had ejected them earlier in the evening.
While one held him, the others kicked him in the groin and face. He fell and struck his head on the pavement, but it did not curtail the assault.
Norwood spent 10 days in intensive care with a fractured skull, a broken jaw and a depressed cheekbone. He also lost a number of teeth.
Not surprisingly, Norwood struggled through a miserable season, largely spent in Hershey. Then he was traded to St. Catharines and eventually released by Toronto.
Managing to hook on with Peoria last winter, Norwood was selected as the IHL's best defenseman, earning him a shot with the parent Blues. So far, he has made the most of it.