After a summer of tumult and two days of testing, the Washington Capitals will begin training camp in earnest today at Olympic Centre in Lake Placid, N.Y.

The first exhibition game is less than a week away and the season begins Oct. 5, when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Capital Centre.

Between now and then, the Capitals will try to plug some holes and generally get off to a good start -- something that often has eluded them. This will be the first training camp with Terry Murray as coach.

Though the club is hoping the tranquility of the Adirondack Mountains will be a respite from the turmoil of this summer, there is an odd mix of feelings among the 50-some players trying to make the team.

The Capitals are coming off their worst regular season and first losing record (36-38-6) since 1981-82. The power play was awful. However, the franchise never did better in the playoffs than it did last spring, playing in May and in the Stanley Cup semifinals for the first time.

Just a few days after the Capitals were eliminated by the Boston Bruins, four players were implicated by a 17-year-old woman, who told police she had been sexually assaulted in a limousine following a party in Georgetown. All maintained their innocence and a grand jury did not indict any. General Manager David Poile said, "Things like this don't disappear overnight."

Two of the four, Scott Stevens and Geoff Courtnall, are with St. Louis. Courtnall asked to be traded and was. Stevens signed a huge contract as a free agent.

The Capitals will have to integrate center Peter Zezel and defenseman Mike Lalor into the system and replace the production of Courtnall and Stevens. There are also two new players from Czechoslovakia, Peter Bondra and Jiri Vykoukal, and one from Sweden, Thomas Sjogren.

The Capitals may have saved a hunk of money by not matching the Blues' offer to Stevens, but they have some financial issues that could cloud the season. There are still 16 players, including stars Rod Langway and Mike Ridley, going into the option years on their contracts. They all want more money.

Goalie Don Beaupre and defensman Bill Houlder played out their options and are not re-signed. Defenseman Kevin Hatcher, who is being counted on to carry a bigger load with Stevens gone, is holding out.

Still, whatever is spinning in their minds, most are glad to be playing again.

"For sure," said Tim Bergland, who is hoping to stick with the Capitals after coming up from Baltimore in the middle of last season. "A lot of things did happen. But there were a lot of good things that happened last year. We overcame a big hurdle in winning the Patrick Division. We've got to try to get off to a quick start. The guys are excited about showing what they can do on the ice."

The ice they will be training on is legendary: The 1980 U.S. team upset the Soviets on it en route to the Olympic gold medal. Poile joked about hoping to tap into some of that miracle potion, but there were more earthly reasons.

"We were looking for a place to go where the rink, hotel, restaurant and everything else was close enough that everybody could get around, where cars weren't necessary," Poile said. "Also, there are two ice arenas, one being Olympic size {larger than NHL rinks}. That should help in the conditioning of the team."

This is still a young team, if not always in age, then perhaps in experience. There are some spots with openings and some that are tight.

Beaupre and Mike Liut proved last spring to be the best playoff combination Washington has ever had. Assuming the Capitals and Beaupre reach an agreement, the plan is to keep that tandem together, while younger goalies such as Jim Hrivnak, Olie Kolzig and Byron DaFoe develop in the minors.

The blueline corps, which will miss Stevens, has five who almost surely are going to be there at the start: Langway, Hatcher (if he reports), Bob Rouse, Calle Johansson and Lalor. Neil Sheehy would be a favorite to get the sixth spot, but he is 30 and was scratched from some playoff games. Kent Paynter, Mark Ferner, Chris Felix, and Jim Mathieson may challenge for that place.

Left wing may have the most flux. Kelly Miller is a given. If Langway were not here, Miller probably would be the captain, and nobody works harder on the team. After him, the three spots are up for grabs with Michal Pivonka, Bob Joyce, Nick Kypreos, Jeff Greenlaw and others trying for a place.

Center position has three solid, experienced players in Ridley, Dale Hunter and Zezel. Rob Murray, who kills penalites and is good on faceoffs, might be the favorite to fill the fourth spot.

The team will need scoring from the right wing. Dino Ciccarelli was the leading scorer last season and will need to get 40 goals again. John Druce was the surprise playoff star in 1990, with 14 goals, and would like to prove it was no accident.