Coach Bryan Murray gave the Washington Capitals a day off yesterday, possibly the last until Christmas Eve. For Murray, though, there are no off days.

Murray's Sunday afternoon task was the juggling of line combinations, which seemed fairly well settled until center Bob Gould suffered a hairline fracture in his right foot during Friday night's 2-0 exhibition victory over the Hartford Whalers at Lake Placid, N.Y.

With Gould expected to miss Thursday's opener in Boston and weekend games against Chicago and Buffalo, the all-important checking line that appeared to successfully absorb Peter Sundstrom in Gaetan Duchesne's place once again is in need of a transfusion.

"I'll be thinking about it today and I'll have something ready for practice tomorrow," Murray said. "At least we have some flexibility this time. Last year, when {Craig} Laughlin and {Alan} Haworth were hurt in the playoffs, we had a hard time filling. Now it's easier filling those holes that are bound to occur."

In the case of Gould, there are numerous options, but the checking line is so vital to a defense-oriented team like Washington that it behooves Murray to make the right move if his team is to get off to the fast start that has proved so elusive in the past.

The prime possibility is a shift of Kelly Miller from right wing to center. Then, should Sundstrom stay at left wing, Laughlin could take over the right side. If Sundstrom is moved to right wing, Lou Franceschetti would be the logical choice to replace him at left wing.

Other candidates for Gould's center role are Laughlin and Mike Ridley, both of whom filled in there during Saturday's 4-3 exhibition loss at Hartford. However, Murray indicated he would prefer to leave Ridley at left wing with Bengt Gustafsson and Dave Christian.

If Laughlin should move onto the checking line, David Jensen would assume his role as center for the fourth line, tabbed the "Terminators" by Laughlin. The Capitals are carrying 14 forwards, and the fifth unit of Laughlin, Jensen, Franceschetti, Ed Kastelic and Greg Adams has been advised to be ready to fill in just about anywhere.

"We've worked a few guys in different roles, just to provide us with a bit of a security blanket," Murray said. "We have a lot of forwards who can move around and we can take advantage of that to counter opposing lines, besides plugging for injuries."

Adams, who suffered a hyperextended right elbow in the 3-2 victory over the U.S. Olympic team Sept. 25, has been skating while waiting for the soreness to go away so he can once again shoot the puck properly.

"I took the tape off the elbow {Saturday} and I was shooting at half or three-quarter speed," Adams said. "I'll try a full shot tomorrow and I should be ready to play Thursday."

A third injured Capital, defenseman Kevin Hatcher, skated yesterday at Mount Vernon. He will practice with the team today, then report to Dr. Stephen Haas for an examination of his left knee. If no ill effects are noted, he also will be in the lineup at Boston.