The Washington Capitals' injury problems faded into virtual insignificance at yesterday's practice, as the Pelle Lindbergh tragedy became the No. 1 topic of conversation among players and coaches.
"Considering the caliber of person and player he was, it's a real blow not only to the Philadelphia Flyers but to the whole sport," said Coach Bryan Murray. "He was a jovial person, a pretty good friend with a lot of guys, on top of the hockey world with everything on his side."
Amid the sadness, no doubt shared by every other team in the NHL, the Capitals had one positive item to report.
Team captain Rod Langway, idle since he suffered a strained knee ligament Oct. 23, skated for the first time with a newly fitted brace and the initial response was excellent.
"Rod looked pretty good and he said he felt pretty good," Murray said. "The first few drills his timing was off, puck-handlingwise, but he stayed with some other players after practice and he was soon looking like the old Rod."
Scott Stevens did not practice because of his bruised right knee, and he was joined in absentia by another defenseman, Larry Murphy.
Murphy, who returned only Tuesday after suffering a broken bone in his left foot, was struck twice by pucks on the right foot in Saturday's 5-4 loss to Calgary and the swelling prevented him from fitting his skate yesterday.
"I skated off when I got hit in the other foot and figured I was jinxed," Murphy said. "But it just stung and I was able to come back."
He returned in sensational fashion, scoring the two goals that turned a 4-2 deficit into a 4-4 tie, before Eddy Beers produced the winner for Calgary.
Of his knee, Stevens said, "I had more motion in it today, but the swelling keeps it from bending. It was better, though, and I have a feeling it will be a lot better tomorrow."
Good news continues for center Alan Haworth, whose goal-scoring streak reached eight games Saturday to tie Mike Gartner's club record. Haworth will be married to Judy Jensen on Dec. 24.
Haworth said the streak had created no extra pressure. Instead, he said, "I welcome the chance to prove I'm more than just an average NHL forward."