The way things have been going lately, the National Hockey League may have to change its player of the week award to Washington goaltender of the week.

Clint Malarchuk, on the strength of consecutive shutouts and a third impressive victory, was honored by the NHL yesterday. It was the third time in four weeks and the fourth occasion in 1988 that either Malarchuk or Pete Peeters was selected.

Malarchuk also was picked for the week ending Jan. 3, after he shut out Edmonton.

Peeters, the NHL leader with a 2.62 goals-against average, was chosen for the weeks ending Feb. 1, following his overtime shutout of Philadelphia, and Feb. 15, when he won three games.

The award was initiated in 1980 and during the seven previous seasons, Washington players were honored only 12 times. Half were goalies: Pat Riggin (3), Al Jensen (2) and Bob Mason (1).

Scott Stevens is the only Washington defenseman ever selected (March 15, 1987). Forwards cited were Mike Gartner twice, Dennis Maruk twice and Craig Laughlin . . .

The Capitals were greeted by a temperature of 86 degrees when they landed at Palm Springs, Calif., shortly after noon Sunday. What they did not find was their luggage, which was delivered at midnight.

Gretzky Will Shun Visor

The manufacturers of protective visors for hockey helmets no doubt prepared for increased sales after the first period Friday in Edmonton, when both Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux were forced out of the game with facial injuries.

Gretzky was struck in the left eye by the stick of Pittsburgh's Rod Buskas. He suffered a bruised cornea that figures to put him out of action for a week. Although the eye remained red and swollen yesterday, Gretzky was reported to have full vision.

When he returns, Gretzky said, he will not be wearing a visor, because "I don't like them. You can't see the puck and it gives you double vision at the bottom."

A deflected puck struck Lemieux on the nose. Although he said the nose was not broken, it appeared to be flattened somewhat and the bleeding from a cut on the bridge proved difficult to stop. However, he had no trouble breathing.

Lemieux wore a visor in Sunday's game against St. Louis and said, "I wore one in juniors and it didn't bother me. It's just a case of getting used to it. I guess I'll be wearing one for a few weeks now, at least."

All players entering the NHL since June 1, 1979, including Gretzky and Lemieux, are required to wear helmets, but they are optional for officials. Nevertheless, all but three NHL referees have gone to helmets, as a result of the rash of injuries that has affected the officiating corps. The holdouts are Dan Marouelli, Paul Stewart and Kerry Fraser.

Marouelli said, "I wore one for six years in juniors and I don't like them. But it's a matter of personal preference. I wouldn't tell anyone else what to do."

Linesman Jim Christison, another holdout, said, "I tried one and they're okay. But I think they may give you a false feeling of security as far as the game goes."

Perhaps the definitive statement on the subject was provided by Winnipeg's Randy Carlyle, one of the few players who still goes bare-headed: "No brain, no pain."

Maruk Undergoes Surgery

Minnesota center Dennis Maruk, injured in Saturday's game against Washington, underwent surgery Sunday to repair a kneecap that Dr. Bill Simonet said was "not just fractured, but shattered." The ex-Capital is recovering at Fairview-Southdale Hospital in Edina, Minn., but his career seems over. Maruk, 32, had missed the first two months of the season with a cut tendon in his foot . . .

Goalie Grant Fuhr has played in 60 of Edmonton's 61 games. If he collapses during the playoffs, Coach Glen Sather will not look as smart as in the past . . . Goalie Andy Moog is committed to Pittsburgh after the Olympics unless the Penguins' general manager, Eddie Johnston, changes his mind. Since Johnston will lose his job if fading Pittsburgh does not qualify for the playoffs, he figures to implement the proposed deal, which would give Edmonton a No. 1 draft choice . . . Karl Friesen, so sharp as the West German goalie against the United States Sunday, played four games in the NHL with New Jersey last season. The figures: 0-2-1, 7.38 . . .

Mike Bossy has not ruled out the possibility that he will play some time in the future. However, since his back is no better after four months' rest, the Islanders' sharpshooter is more likely to hone his TV delivery than his on-ice skills.