The New York press corps is fond of writing that the Washington Capitals never will win anything with Pete Peeters in the net. Nobody writes that kind of thing in Detroit.

While Peeters has suffered some forgettable moments against the Rangers and Islanders and shunned some persistent questioners afterward, he has a career record of 13 victories, one tie and no losses against the Red Wings.

Detroit visits Capital Centre tonight and Peeters, naturally, will be guarding the home goal. With a struggling .500 team that is trying to right itself, Coach Bryan Murray is not likely to pass up that kind of edge.

Peeters earned the start by more than a few figures in the record book, though. He had a strong, 22-save effort Saturday as the Capitals ended a four-game losing streak with a 4-1 decision over Minnesota.

"Pete was in control the other night," Murray said. "He was on top of his game and when he wins like that, I have to come back with him.

"Pete had a little problem after the Buffalo game {a 6-5 loss Oct. 11} and Clint {Malarchuk} got on a roll and earned most of the work. But even when Pete isn't playing, he's always out here early and late, doing extra work. And after he sits for a while, he's capable of stepping in and playing very well."

Warren Strelow, the Capitals' goaltending coach, said, "Pete's balance and agility were really good the last game and I'm not easily pleased. Right now his lateral movement and agility in close are the best I've seen by any goaltender since I've been here."

Peeters gets about as excited over praise from Murray and Strelow as he does over criticism from the media. But he did acknowledge that the fans' chants of "Peeeet" after a big save Saturday were most welcome.

"The Caps' fans are good fans and they appreciate good plays," Peeters said. "It's nice to hear them supporting the team and that certainly was a good turnout {17,855}."

Of his erratic season, which has been affected by illness, a bruised finger and bruised ribs that forced him out after two periods in Vancouver, Peeters said, "When you get a couple of injuries, you have to wait till you heal. I'm ready to play now and I feel super-duper. I've had my bumps and bruises and it hasn't hampered my season too much."

Although limited to five appearances in more than five weeks, Peeters still is ahead of last year's start, when he spent a couple of weeks in Binghamton before rebounding with a 14-5-3 second half.

"He and I took a lot of criticism after the Rangers series {in 1986}," Murray said. "But we lost that series because of turnovers at our net, not because of the goaltending.

"Pete Peeters is a good goaltender and he has shown he can win consistently. Maybe the one criticism in the past were his feet, but he's improved them."

Strelow said, "In close, his feet are moving better. It's something we've worked on. Pete and Clint are two great guys to work with. They work hard and they're coachable. I totally disagree with the people who say we can't win with him. He's been in the league nine years and he's near the top in goals-against average {3.10 over his career, trailing only Bob Froese and Patrick Roy among active goalies}."

Of his critics, Peeters said only, "I have no comment. They want me to make a comment, but I have more sense than that."

Asked whether he preferred a strict goalie rotation or Murray's policy of sticking with the hot man, Peeters said, "I have my personal opinions and philosophy about goaltending and they're not necessarily the same as David Poile's or Bryan Murray's, so I'd best keep it to myself."

Capitals Notes:

Glen Hanlon, the Red Wings' probable starting goalie, had an interesting weekend. He collided with teammate Mark Kumpel in practice Friday, lost two front teeth and needed 17 stitches in his upper lip. Unable to start Saturday in New Jersey, he was forced into action when Greg Stefan suffered a bruised leg. Hanlon stopped all six shots he faced in preserving a slim lead over the last 13 minutes . . . The Red Wings called up defenseman Doug Houda from Adirondack last night, after Gilbert Delorme suffered a groin pull during yesterday's practice at Fort Dupont . . . Detroit winger Bob Probert, more noted as a fighter than a scorer, had two goals and four assists against New Jersey . . . After some technical adjustments, WMAL's broadcast can now be picked up within Capital Centre.

Whalers 3, Canadiens 3:

Stewart Gavin scored with 37 seconds remaining in regulation last night in Montreal, giving Hartford a tie.

Mike McPhee collected two goals and an assist and Chris Nilan a goal for Montreal. The Canadiens, with an NHL-best 27 points this season, have lost only one of their last 11 games, going 6-1-4 over that span. The Whalers, 0-3-3 in their last six, also received goals from Mike Millar and Brent Peterson.

The Canadiens built a 3-0 lead by doing all their scoring in the first 10:18 of the middle period, but Millar, just up from Binghamton of the AHL, began the comeback at 14:55 of that session.

Torrie Robertson of the Whalers played his first game since Nov. 29, 1986, when the former Washington Capital suffered a broken left leg in a fight with Shayne Corson of the Canadiens. Last night, Robertson fought with Montreal's Sergio Momesso in the third period.