Washington Capitals defenseman and captain Rod Langway, who was forced from Wednesday's 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins at Capital Centre because of back spasms, said yesterday he will not play tonight when the Capitals start a two-night, home-and-home series against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Capital Centre at 8:05.

"I've got tomorrow off," said Langway, who instead of practicing yesterday received treatment for the injury. "I'm just lying down and enjoying Thanksgiving, or trying to."

Coach Bryan Murray was a little more optimistic, but not much.

"He'll be seen by {Dr. Stephen Haas} before the game tomorrow," Murray said, "but it's not likely he'll play. If there's any question at all, we're not going to play him."

Murray said Langway would travel to Pittsburgh with the Capitals. However, it is uncertain if Langway will play there, either.

Rookie Paul Cavallini, who has not in uniform for Washington's last two games, will take Langway's place in the lineup and will at least start the game paired with Kevin Hatcher, Murray said.

"We'll probably juggle the pairings during the game," Murray said, "but we do a lot of that during the game anyway."

Mike Gartner will serve as team captain in Langway's absence.

Langway left Wednesday night's game with seven minutes remaining in the first period and the score tied, 1-1. Despite playing with just five defensemen, the Capitals managed one of their better defensive performances of the season, allowing the Bruins -- whose seven-game winning streak ended with the loss -- just 22 shots on goal and holding them scoreless on five power plays.

"I thought the forechecking up front came to the fore for really the first time this season," Murray said. "I thought we played well in Hartford {Saturday night in a 4-3 victory over the Whalers}. To come back like that and play very well for three periods made me very happy."

The Capitals (10-10-1) will have to continue to play well to succeed against Pittsburgh (8-10-4), which trails Washington by just one point in the Patrick Division. The Penguins defeated the Capitals, 3-2, in Pittsburgh on Nov. 11 without eight injured players, including Mario Lemieux. Tuesday they acquired all-star defenseman Paul Coffey from the Edmonton Oilers. Wednesday, in his first game since September and the Canada Cup's conclusion, Coffey assisted on three power-play goals in Pittsburgh's, 6-4, victory over Quebec.

"I think they definitely improved themselves in play off the blue line, in the power play and in getting the puck out of their own end," Murray said. "We can't let Coffey penetrate into our zone because he is a good passer and a good shooter. Also, we have to take advantage of what he gives you. He takes chances offensively and there are a lot of turnovers in this game."

"I think they gave up a little {to get Coffey}," Murray said. "I think {forward Craig} Simpson is a pretty good player. I think {18-year-old rookie defenseman} Chris Joseph is a fine prospect. {Defenseman} Moe Mantha is good and {forward} Dave Hannan always seemed to play well against us."

Hannan, incidentally, scored what turned out to be the winning goal in the earlier game between the teams.

Of course, Murray's major concern has nothing to do with the Penguins.

"There's no question Rod is an important guy in our room," Murray said. "He's the captain. He's our leader. He's one of the more vocal guys in our room. And we look to him in key situations on the ice and off the ice."

"But when you play the number of games you do," Murray added, "you're going to have injuries and you have to overcome them. That's the thing I am hoping we will be able to do. This gives us a chance to play some other people and put some other people in key situations on the ice and see how they do."