TORONTO, DEC. 14 -- Defenseman Rod Langway went for a "light skate" of more than an hour today. Then, while his teammates headed for National Airport and the flight here, Langway paid yet another visit to Dr. Stephen Haas, the Capitals' team physician, for a check of the ruptured disk in his back.

"Right now, I'll be lucky to get back by the first of the year," Langway said.

Told that everyone connected with the Capitals would be delighted by that scenario, Langway said, "I won't. I wanted to go on the road trip today, but they said there was no point, that sitting in a plane and a bus and a hockey rink would be bad for me."

There seems to be some question whether the lengthy workouts Langway endured Sunday and today were likely to be beneficial, either. But he defended the drills, saying, "It was a light skate. I didn't hit anybody and I didn't skate hard.

"I can't just take two months off. If I do, I can't come back. I want to see if they can give me a shot to take the pain away. I don't know what they'll tell me, but I have ice tomorrow and ice Thursday and I intend to use it.

"Every time I shot today I felt it. It was like shooting scared and skating scared. I know it's going to get stiff, but this morning it was just about the same as yesterday, so at least it's consistent now, not like two weeks ago with all that numbness. I've been swimming and maybe that's the answer."

Langway is fidgeting with boredom, which explains his desire to skate at practice and see how much pain he can accept. He is hoping it will ease soon, but he conceded there were no guarantees and said that if there was no improvement by February, he would be forced to consider surgery.

"December and January would give me two solid months of rest," Langway said. "If there's no change, then I'll have to make a decision. The doctors say an operation is far-fetched, but I want to be 100 percent before I do a thing and if I'm still like this, it might be the only answer."

Langway is scheduled to visit Dr. Sam Wiesel at George Washington University Hospital Tuesday. However, the Capitals said there would be no medical report on that appointment or today's visit to Haas until at least Wednesday.

Coach Bryan Murray admitted that Langway's workout today was more than a light skate.

"They went pretty good today and he skated a full practice yesterday, too," Murray said. "This was a pretty good workout. Rod is going to be seeing the doctors and receiving treatment and the decision will be made by him and the doctors. When they agree he's ready, he'll play."

Murray wants to put Dale Hunter back with Mike Gartner and reunite Bengt Gustafsson and Dave Christian on Tuesday, but the plan depends on the availability of Hunter, who has a deep bruise on the buttock.

"The damage is to the muscle you skate with and it's still sore," Hunter said after practicing today. "Yesterday I could hardly skate, but I was able to work on it today. I guess it will be a last-minute decision tomorrow."

Pete Peeters, whose goals-against mark of 2.52 leads the NHL, will be in the net Tuesday and most likely on Wednesday in Detroit as well.

"I want to play Pete a few games now," Murray said. "He's playing well, he looks good and he has to get going. Clint {Malarchuk} needs some time to recoup, a chance to watch and get ready for his next start."

Peeters has been bothered by a bruised finger, bruised ribs and a strained knee ligament this season, so he has appeared in only nine games.

"You have to take it as it comes," Peeters said. "There are a lot of games left. I'm still a little tight {after playing his first game in two weeks Saturday}, but I felt better going to bed last night and with the good workout today, I'm loosening up. I feel pretty good."

The last time the Capitals came here, on Dec. 10, 1986, they were humiliated, 8-2, and Peeters played so poorly he was asked to spend two weeks in Binghamton. Nobody is expecting a repeat.

"We're coming to the 30-game mark and we have to win more games," Murray said. "We have to win the Toronto game to start off. That's pretty important for us."

Capitals Notes: Defenseman Mike Posavad, 23, was secured from St. Louis on $1 waivers today and assigned to Fort Wayne . . . Center Mike Richard has recorded at least one point in 27 straight games for Binghamton, one shy of the American Hockey League record . . . Toronto owner Harold Ballard gave Coach John Brophy a vote of confidence, then said of GM Gerry McNamara: "I don't see Mac doing anything fantastic.". . . Chicago's Rick Vaive scored two goals against Toronto Sunday while wearing a visor to protect the nose that was broken by Scott Stevens at the conclusion of Saturday's game.