LAKE PLACID, N.Y., SEPT. 28 -- The Washington Capitals will begin a week of intense preparation for their season opener Oct. 8 without the services of injured defenseman Kevin Hatcher, who was left behind with a sore left knee when the team departed Washington this afternoon.

Hatcher was examined this morning by Dr. Stephen Haas and the knee was still inflamed. As a result, a diagnosis was impossible. Hatcher was ordered to rest it and return for further examination Friday. Since Hatcher had already been virtually idle since first damaging the knee in practice last Tuesday, the latest setback was most unwelcome.

"How long can you stay off it before you get out of shape?" Hatcher asked. "Being off till Friday sure won't help. The swelling hasn't gone down and nobody knows whether it's water or what. I've got to take it easy and that's no way to get ready."

Hatcher knows how he hurt the knee, but he is unable to explain the root cause.

"I twisted it while I was handling the puck," Hatcher said. "I turned and twisted it on the inside. Nobody hit me. I'm not exactly sure why it happened. I'm sure I've made that turn before without anything happening."

The injury is spoiling what appeared destined to be a big season for Hatcher, after a disappointing campaign last winter. Hatcher played for the United States in the Canada Cup this summer, partnering Washington captain Rod Langway, and United States Coach Bob Johnson called Hatcher the most improved player on the team.

"The experience was great," Hatcher said. "I played all five games, I felt good and everybody seemed pleased with the way I played. I felt confident and relaxed, especially after we got off to such a good start by beating the Finns and Swedes.

"It was something playing the Czechs and the Russians with all their speed, but I thought I did all right. You won't see much of that speed in the NHL anyway.

"I was really looking forward to this season and having a good camp, after I had such a roller coaster year last year. Something happened to me during the exhibitions last year and it took me the longest time to play good again. I certainly hope this injury doesn't mess things up this time."

Left wing Greg Adams, who hyperextended his right elbow during Friday's preseason victory over the U.S. Olympic team, received better news today. He was permitted to travel here and skate in workouts, but he cannot participate in contact drills until at least this Friday.

Certainly, none of the other Capitals was looking forward to this visit more than Dave Christian, who earned his Olympic gold medal here as part of the U.S. hockey miracle of 1980.

"This is my first time back since then and I'm excited about it," Christian said. "I'm sure it won't be quite as busy as last time.

"I'm excited about stepping on the rink tomorrow morning, seeing what it looks like now and finding out what memories will come back to me. That was such a great experience."

This has been a big week for Christian, who visited the White House Thursday with his teammates and his father, Bill, a member of the 1960 Olympic gold medalists. Both Christians received special notice from President Reagan.

Another member of the Capitals with some bright memories of Lake Placid is goaltending coach Warren Strelow, who had the same duties for the U.S. Olympians in 1980.

The Capitals are scheduled for two sessions here Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday -- at 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Although a scrimmage is scheduled Tuesday, the emphasis will be on refining Coach Bryan Murray's system.

"Physically, I think we have a pretty good hockey club," Murray said. "Now it's time to bring things together. We're going to work on special teams, forechecking, neutral-zone defense, the attacking methods we wish to use. We'll have meetings with the guys and define roles.

"It's also a time to socialize together. We have some new players and this gives them a chance to feel at home."