Washington Capitals captain Rod Langway, who has been sidelined for 2 1/2 weeks because of a ruptured disk in his back, skated for the first time in two weeks yesterday during the Capitals' workout at Mount Vernon.

Afterward, Coach Bryan Murray said he thought "it went really well" for Langway and that the defenseman "looked good." However, after emerging from the training room and asked how his back felt, Langway said "not good."

"It's stiffened up," he said, "so I guess we'll start again {this} morning -- if I get out of bed."

Langway has not played since Nov. 25, when he departed during the first period of Washington's game against Boston. His condition was diagnosed Dec. 1 and he was in George Washington University Hospital from Dec. 2 until last Wednesday.

The immediate plan is for Langway to undergo re-examination today by team physician Stephen Haas and Tuesday by Dr. Sam W. Wiesel, an orthopedic surgeon at George Washington University Hospital. Meantime, he will take treatment daily and try to skate. This, of course, is subject to change, depending on Langway's condition. As of Saturday night, Langway wasn't supposed to begin skating again until today.

"We'll just have to see what happens," Murray said. "It's not a hurry-up thing from our point of view. He'll play when he feels he can play, or when the doctors give him the green light. Right now, I'm just assuming he's out, and until we're told {otherwise}, that's probably what we will have to do."

Including their 2-1 victory Saturday night over the Chicago Blackhawks at Capital Centre, the Capitals are 3-4-1 in the games Langway has missed. They have an overall record of 13-14-2, and fell into fifth place in the Patrick Division, one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins the streaking Philadelphia Flyers, who moved past the Capitals with a win against Winnipeg last night. Murray said there have been "half a dozen or more games" this season the Capitals had "been in a position to win" but had not. Langway's absence, Murray said, may have played a role in the last two of those games -- 5-4 losses to Calgary last Tuesday at Capital Centre and to Hartford last Wednesday in Hartford, Conn.

Against the Flames, the Capitals led, 3-1, with a little more than 14 1/2 minutes to play, but then allowed Calgary to score four times in the game's final 13 minutes. Against the Whalers, the Capitals recovered from a 3-1 deficit and tied the score, 4-4, on Kevin Hatcher's goal with 1:28 left in the second period. Hartford's Kevin Dineen won the game with the only goal of the third period.

"Those were games we were definitely in control of, and looking back, some of the late goals by the other teams may have been offset by Langway," Murray said.

Elsewhere on the injury front, center Dale Hunter, who was unable to play for the first time this season Saturday night, continues to be day-to-day because of a seriously bruised buttock.

Goaltender Pete Peeters, on the other hand, said he was feeling good after returning Saturday night from what he said was the longest injury-caused absence of his NHL career. Peeters had been sidelined since Nov. 28, when he strained a ligament in his left knee during the first period of a 5-5 tie in Pittsburgh.

"It's a little bit sore and I'm a little bit stiff," Peeters said, "but that's to be expected."

Peeters made 26 saves Saturday night, including several in the first period that Murray said "gave him some confidence and really helped the team."

Peeters said he generally was pleased by his effort, but remembered the one shot he didn't stop, a first-period drive by Denis Savard that went between his pads for a short-handed goal and tied the score, 1-1.