INGLEWOOD, CALIF., JAN. 13 -- It took a long time for Lou Franceschetti to win a job with the Washington Capitals. He is not about to let it go without a fight -- or two.

Franceschetti, 29, is popular with Capital Centre fans because of the way he throws his body around. Coach Bryan Murray likes him for the same reason. What Murray does not like is the occasional night when Franceschetti is floating on the ice.

It has been a bone of contention between them since Franceschetti played for Murray in Hershey during the 1980-81 season. Franceschetti scored 32 goals that season, his best in pro hockey other than the 46-goal season he had as a rookie in the International League in 1978-79.

Two weeks ago, after General Manager David Poile's reevaluation, Franceschetti found himself joining Ed Kastelic in the press box, while Binghamton recalls Mike Richard and Yvon Corriveau were given a look.

The Capitals immediately began a six-game unbeaten streak. Nobody changes a winning lineup, so Kastelic found himself in Binghamton and Franceschetti became a regular in the press box.

It was not until after the streak had ended Sunday in Calgary that Franceschetti regained a spot in the lineup. Sixteen days after his last action against Philadelphia, he was sent back in on Monday against another tough club, Edmonton.

Defenseman Craig Muni proved to be a one-man welcoming committee. On Franceschetti's second shift, Muni blasted him as he skated out of the Washington end. Franceschetti went down, got up and went down while the crowd howled.

"I leaned for a pass and he really nailed me, gave me an elbow right in the jaw," Franceschetti said. "I tried to get up, but I didn't know where I was. I was out of it for a while."

Several shifts later, Franceschetti returned and tried to line up Mark Messier against the side boards. Franceschetti missed the check and wound up draped across the Washington bench, while the fans hooted some more.

Eventually, Franceschetti landed some solid checks. He also got a couple of good scoring chances, but was foiled by Oilers goaltender Grant Fuhr. That left unchanged his disappointing statistics: one goal, three assists in 35 games.

Of the lengthy period during which he sat out, Franceschetti said, "It's a funny thing how it works. When they make a decision like that, you can't argue it, not with those stats. But you expect just to sit out a game or two. Then the team gets on a roll and you know they won't change.

"I felt like a rookie out there Monday. I wasn't in the dressing room for two weeks and that never happened to me before.

"Bryan knows me all too well. On another team, I wouldn't stand out so much when I was having a bad game. Now I have to work hard and turn it around. Yvon came up and Mike Richard had a tryout. Now it's my turn and I don't want to give someone else a chance."

Murray was satisfied with Franceschetti's effort Monday, but he promised to be watching closely tonight, to be sure there was no slippage when Franceschetti played against the Los Angeles Kings.

"I always know Louie will give me a good game when he's been out of the lineup," Murray said. "I just wish he could give me a good game every night. But that's the problem he's had since I had him in Hershey. He's just too inconsistent."

It was that reputation that haunted Franceschetti -- a fourth-round draft pick in 1978 -- throughout a long minor-league career during which he became popular with fans in Hershey and Binghamton and unpopular with fans everywhere else in the American League.

His career seemed close to an end in both 1983 and 1984, but each year Washington called him up for playoff insurance and he was impressive when injuries gave him a chance to play.

This is Franceschetti's third full season in a regular role and he does not want it to be his last. So there is considerable incentive not to be shunted back to the press box.

"I'd like to forget the first half of the season and help the team more the rest of the way," Franceschetti said. "We're playing better and we have a chance to finish right up there. We've all got to help out -- me included."

Nordiques 5, Devils 3:

Peter Stastny scored two goals and assisted on another and Quebec won last night in East Rutherford, N.J.

For New Jersey, the loss was its fourth straight and seventh in eight games at home. The Devils began the season by going 12-1-1 at the Brendan Byrne Arena.

Canadiens 5, Bruins 4:

Mats Naslund scored his 16th goal of the season and added two assists, helping the Canadiens end a four-game home winless streak with a victory over Boston.

The win moved Montreal into first place in the Adams Division with 56 points, one better than the Bruins, whom they meet again tonight in Boston.

Blackhawks 2, Whalers 1:

Chicago's Steve Thomas scored 5:23 into the third period to lift the Blackhawks over Hartford in Chicago.

The Blackhawks, who are unbeaten in their last four games, survived a penalty shot by Hartford's Dean Evason at 6:23 of the final period. Blackhawks goalie Darren Pang stopped Evason's 10-foot shot with his left pad.

Red Wings 7, Rangers 4:

Jim Nill, acquired by Detroit from Winnipeg last weekend, had a goal and three assists and the Red Wings extended their winning streak to four games by defeating the Rangers in New York.

The Rangers, who are 0-3-1 in their last four games, played without Coach Michel Bergeron, who was hospitalized with a probable case of food poisoning. Assistant coach Charles Thiffault directed the team.

Maple Leafs 3, North Stars 3:

Toronto's Mark Osborne had a goal and two assists, goalie Jeff Reese made 30 saves in his second NHL game and the Maple Leafs tied Minnesota in Bloomington, Minn.