Washington Capitals defenseman Rod Langway did not practice yesterday and probably won't today because of back spasms that first occurred Friday night.

"It's only minor spasms -- nothing structural," Capitals Coach Terry Murray said of Langway, who is 33 and had a ruptured disk in the 1987-88 season.

Langway's treatment is therapy sessions and stretching exercises under the watchful eye of trainer Stan Wong.

"I'm looking for him to skate Wednesday or Thursday," said Murray. "I will let him come to me and tell me how he is." New Arrival

Left wing Dave Tippett, who was acquired Sunday night from Hartford for a draft choice, will arrive this morning and practice with the Capitals at Mount Vernon.

Hartford was playing Philadelphia Sunday night. There were rumors of a trade, but Tippett knew something really was up when he skated during the warm-up but was told he wasn't playing. Later, he told the Hartford Courant, "I'm very disappointed. When you play for one team for that long {six-plus seasons}, you feel you are a part of it. But on the other hand, you want to be appreciated for what you do. The new {Hartford} regime was building for the future."

Tippett is a good friend of Capitals goalie Mike Liut, who was a Whaler until March.

"Liutty made this trade," the Whalers' Ulf Samuelsson joked. Actually, the Capitals did ask Liut about Tippett.

"They just asked what kind of guy he is," Liut said at practice yesterday. "He's a great guy." . . .

Liut said the tightness in a groin muscle that developed after last Thursday's exhibition game was going away. Thus, it is likely Liut will be in goal for Friday night's season opener against Pittsburgh at Capital Centre. Farmed Out

The Capitals made further roster cuts yesterday by assigning left wing Steve Maltais and defenseman Kent Paynter to Baltimore.

The Capitals were tempted to keep Maltais. "He's very close," Murray said. "But it's important that he play a lot. I didn't see it happening here. I don't want him in a situation where he plays four or five minutes a game."

With Kevin Hatcher still holding out, the Capitals' defensive situation is still shaky. But with Langway, Bob Rouse and Mike Lalor, they have enough defensive-oriented players. That's why Paynter is going to Baltimore.

The others assigned to Baltimore over the weekend were defensemen Wade Bartley, Ken Lovsin, Jim Mathieson, Rob Mendel and Jiri Vykoukal. The other forwards going to Baltimore are Victor Gervais, Jeff Greenlaw, Todd Hlushko, Tyler Larter, Dave Lorentz, Harry Mews, Randy Pearce, John Purves, Reggie Savage, Steve Seftel, Thomas Sjogren, Tim Taylor and Alfie Turcotte. The goalies in Baltimore are Shawn Simpson and Olie Kolzig.