Sometimes life just doesn't seem fair. Take the Washington Capitals, for example. They have had trouble scoring on anybody in the last seven games, managing only 15 goals.

So who will be in goal for the New York Islanders tonight at Nassau Coliseum, with the Capitals trying to end the slump? Who else but Kelly Hrudey.

Washington shot everything but Abe Pollin's wallet at Hrudey the last time the teams met, in that four-overtime playoff game in April. Hrudey totaled 73 saves as the Islanders won, 3-2, and ended the Capitals' season.

Washington has played 122 games since it was last shut out, at Philadelphia March 13, 1986. For all purposes, though, Hrudey earned a shutout in the classic that ended Easter morning, because he kept the Capitals scoreless for the game's final 90 minutes 2 seconds, or more than a game and a half of normal hockey.

What will it be like to see Hrudey again?

Mike Gartner, who scored one of Washington's two goals that night, said, "I always thought Kelly Hrudey was an outstanding goalie and that suspicion was confirmed in the Canada Cup. It won't ever be easy to score on him. It's difficult for us to score with the trouble we're having anyway and I'd be foolish to say anything except that we're in for a tough game."

Coach Bryan Murray said, "Kelly Hrudey can't play any better than the other guys we've faced lately, like {Mario} Gosselin {of Quebec} and {Bob} Sauve {of New Jersey}. He's good, but if we put pucks at him, we'll get our chances."

To ensure that his players get the message to 'Shoot the puck,' Murray interrupted yesterday's practice to chastise Mike Ridley for making an extra pass when a shot was available.

"You're always concerned when you don't score much in some games back to back," Murray said. "We have some guys who will get their share of goals -- Mike Gartner, Bengt Gustafsson, Dave Christian, Mike Ridley. But I'd like to see more production from other guys."

Actually, only Ridley and Dale Hunter have been scoring enough to keep opposing goaltenders awake. The way the other 12 forwards are struggling, Murray might be justified in checking their sticks for termite damage.

Michal Pivonka, Lou Franceschetti, Ed Kastelic and David Jensen have not scored any goals. Kelly Miller and Bob Gould have one apiece, a factor mitigated somewhat because they are checking specialists and each goal was a game winner.

Gustafsson has not scored a goal in the last eight games. Craig Laughlin has one in the last 12, Gartner one in 10, Peter Sundstrom one in nine, Christian one in six and Greg Adams one in six.

Gustafsson, so sharp in early games and so somnolent recently, was sick last week and is not at full strength.

"I was very weak and I had no strength, but that wasn't the problem," he said. "My legs weren't going where I wanted them to go. I just haven't been getting there.

"The first five to seven games I was right there all the time. I've been on the ice since July and maybe I'm just going through a down period. I hope I can get back up very soon."

Gustafsson and Christian will welcome a new left wing tonight when Adams joins them. Ridley will play left wing on a line with Hunter and Gartner.

"We want a fairly steady guy with Gus and hopefully Greg will get some chances," Murray said. "Ridley and Hunter can interchange if necessary, depending on the situation, so that pairing gives us a little extra."

Capitals Notes: Hrudey and Bob Mason, now with Chicago, met two weeks ago in a rematch of the four-overtime goalie pairings. Sure enough, the game went overtime and ended in a 4-4 tie. Hrudey said, "I wasn't really thinking about that Easter Sunday game. But I think it will hit me more the first time we play Washington." . . . Marty Wakelyn will serve as Hrudey's backup tonight. Billy Smith sprained his left ankle Saturday and has been denied permission to skate . . . The Capitals have given up at least one power-play goal in 13 of their 14 games and a total of 18. Gould said, "Sometimes we become stubborn in sticking to the same style and maybe we ought to adjust. We've been pretty successful in the past, but so many penalties are called now -- as many as nine in a game -- that maybe we need to change our strategy." . . . Lew Strudler, the Capitals' marketing director, phoned all area cable systems to ensure that tonight's game will be shown locally on ESPN.

Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 1: In Montreal, Stephane Richer's ninth goal of the season proved to be the game-winner as the Canadiens extended their unbeaten streak to seven games.

Nordiques 6, Bruins 4: In Quebec, Anton Stastny scored twice and Michel Goulet added a goal and three assists for the Nordiques, who won their fourth straight game and took over second place in the Adams Division.

The Bruins have won once in their last seven starts.