HARTFORD, SEPT. 19 -- When the Washington Capitals' braintrust was looking at the goaltending situation before the start of training camp, it surely did not envision having to enlist the services of an executive with a janitorial company.

But it did, if only to have someone to use for practice.

With injuries to Olie Kolzig and Shawn Simpson and the absence of unsigned free agent Don Beaupre, the Capitals were down to three mostly healthy goalies. So while Jim Hrivnak played the second half of tonight's 4-1 loss to Hartford, his brother, Ken, filled in at practice with the younger players this morning in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Ken Hrivnak, 26, played college hockey at Concordia University in Montreal. One of his teammates was Todd Button -- the Capitals' director of team services and son of the Capitals' director of player personnel and recruitment, Jack Button. Ken now is assisting his father, the president of a janitorial services company.

"On the plane coming home {from Norfolk}, Jack asked me if I knew of any goaltenders available," Jim Hrivnak said. "I said, 'Only my brother,' because everybody else is in camp."

Jim Hrivnak played pretty well tonight in his fourth exhibition game. He allowed two goals. But the first one, by Ron Francis, came during a five-on-three situation and after Hrivnak had stopped three other shots. The second, scored by Mikael Andersson, was a deflection on a shot from the point with the Whalers on a five-on-four power play.

"It was certainly his best exhibition game," Capitals Coach Terry Murray said of Hrivnak.

The team did not give much support to Hrivnak, nor to Mike Liut, who played the first half of the game and allowed goals by Carey Wilson and John Stevens. The Capitals' lone goal was scored by Kelly Miller with just 1:40 left in the game and Hartford ahead, 4-0. The Capitals are now 0-2-2 in the exhibition season.

This was the first time Liut had played at the Civic Center since the Whalers traded him to Washington last March. Tonight, the announced crowd was 10,087.

"It was an exhibition game, so there was not much drama," said Liut, who has been steady in training camp.

The other goaltenders have not.

Hrivnak started slowly and has come on some. Kolzig started slowly and then hurt his shoulder. Simpson pulled a groin muscle, but was able to practice this morning with the Capitals' Group B, along with Ken Hrivnak.

Byron DaFoe is the fifth goalie. Because of his improving play and the other situations, he is scheduled to play his first exhibition game Thursday night when the Capitals play Buffalo in Orlando, Fla.

The original preseason plan -- and it may still work out this way -- was to have Liut and Beaupre play be the regulars. Hrivnak, Kolzig and Simpson would work in the minors, with DaFoe returning to his junior team.

"I knew that," Hrivnak said of the organizational plans. "I wanted to come to camp and work as hard as I can. With Don not here, I just want to go out, play my best, hopefully have a good camp and see what happens."

The 22-year-old Hrivnak made his NHL debut last season and played in 11 games, posting a 5-5 record and 3.55 goals-against average. Last season was his first full year as a pro after playing four years for Merrimack College. In 47 games with Baltimore last season, he was 24-19-2 with a 3.06 goals-against average.

But, like anyone who has tasted the high life, Hrivnak wants more.

"Obviously, everyone wants to play in the NHL. That's my dream," Hrivnak said. "I think I had a good year in Baltimore. They gave me a chance when I came up and I played well."

Murray said early in camp that Hrivnak seemed to be fighting the puck and possibly was a bit nervous about the chance of making the team with Beaupre absent.

"I don't think so," Hrivnak said of the second half of Murray's theory. "I played summer hockey, but the caliber wasn't close to the NHL. I've felt better after a couple weeks of practice."

DaFoe was the Capitals' second-round choice (35th overall) in the 1989 draft and was part of the crew that made the trip to Sweden and the Soviet Union.

The Capitals kept Kolzig for the first few weeks of last season, while DaFoe was sent back to his junior team in Portland. But in October, DaFoe tore some of the cartilage in his right knee.

Doctors tried to sew the cartilage and, when it failed, they had to do more extensive surgery the next day. Then in April -- after the completion of the season in which he also had appendicitis -- he returned to Washington, where Capitals physicians performed arthroscopic surgery again on the knee to clean it out.

After workouts, DaFoe can usually be seen hobbling with the knee wrapped in ice. "When you're going 100 percent, the knee doesn't really like it," DaFoe said. "It's bothered me a little, but the trainers have really helped it along in the last couple of days."

DaFoe understands the orginal plans of the organization regarding goaltending. But not all plans pan out.

"If I'm sent back to juniors, it will not be a big surprise," DaFoe said. "But I'm not going to just give up and go back to juniors."

With the absence of others, DaFoe has had no shortage of work in practice, and spent today and Tuesday with the A Group. He doesn't guarantee he is ready for the NHL, simply because he has not had a shot.

"If you base it on how I played in Russia last year, then I have some confidence," DaFoe said. "But it is a different game in North America. Until I play an exhibition game, I won't know if I'm ready. I was kind of hoping I would get a game. I feel I've had a good camp and I deserve one exhibition game to show what I can do."