The Washington Capitals will finish the first quarter of their 1990-91 regular season tonight in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. By their standards, the team's 10-9 record has been a fine start, but there still is concern over an occasional shortage of goals.

"It's something I know Kelly {Miller}, Steve {Leach} and I have wondered about," center Mike Ridley said.

Those three were a line until yesterday and are among a number of players who haven't matched the pace they set last year.

After scoring 41 goals two seasons ago, Ridley had 30 in 1989-90. With five goals so far this season, he's on a pace to score 20. Michal Pivonka had a career-high 25 last season, but has four so far this season. Leach also had a career-high in '89-90 with 18, but has just three so far. Miller had a blistering first half of last season, although cooling off and finishing with 18. He has four so far.

"There have been a lot of chances, a lot of good chances, and we haven't put them away," Miller said. "I've had great starts, great finishes and great middles. You just try to work hard every game. The points will come and the wins will come. Some nights they go in and some nights they don't."

Effort has not been a problem, according to Coach Terry Murray. Miller and Ridley often are matched against the opponent's top scorers, so more of their attention is focused at the other net. So Murray isn't sure that trying any harder will help.

At this juncture, the situation is hardly a crisis. John Druce has 10 goals and 10 assists to lead the team with 20 points. Kevin Hatcher has played well offensively (14 points) and will return to the lineup tonight after missing one game with a sore knee. And Peter Bondra has shown considerable improvement lately. He has two goals and five assists in the last five games. Bondra and Druce will remain on a line with Pivonka at center.

Murray will try to see how much skill Nick Kypreos can show on a top line. A fourth-line banger since his arrival from Philadelphia 13 months ago, Kypreos will play left wing on Ridley's line, with Miller moving to the right side. Kypreos has three goals already, including two game-winners. Leach will join Dale Hunter and Dave Tippett.

"I want to take a look and see if I haven't passed over something," Murray said of Kypreos.

Ridley is a known quantity. Unlike the first part of last season, he is doing more penalty killing and that unit is ranked third in the NHL. He works on the power play and that group is ranked fourth.

When Wayne Gretzky came to town, Ridley was on the ice with him more times than not. Another factor is that Dino Ciccarelli came out of a slow start last season while playing on Ridley's wing. This season, Ciccarelli came out of a slow start (one goal in nine games) with a fractured thumb.

"The frustrating part is that we've been getting good chances," Ridley said. "I don't know if you have to be born with a knack to score a lot of goals. But I think we've done a good job playing against top lines and I know that's the number one priority."

Capitals Notes: Barring unexpected events in court today, defenseman Rod Langway will miss tonight's game.

Langway and his estranged wife, Linda, are in the midst of a divorce suit. They spent yesterday afternoon in Prince George's County Circuit Court and will do so again today. Attorneys for both sides said it is unlikely proceedings will be completed in time for Langway to catch a plane to Toronto for the 7:35 game at Maple Leaf Gardens.

"No, it doesn't look like it," Langway said during a court recess. "Mentally, I probably wouldn't be in there anyway. I'm glad it's not during the playoffs. The faster it's over, the better it will be for me and my family. It might go three days."

The Capitals have Thursday off before playing Chicago Friday night at Capital Centre.

Langway could use the extra time because his right eye is a mess after he caught sticks in the face three times during the Boston game Sunday. He needed nearly 20 stitches to close cuts near the outside corner of the eye, and his face is heavily bruised. He also said his vision is still a bit blurry.

Since he is one of only eight players in the NHL who do not wear helmets, Langway was asked if this might prompt him to don a helmet and shield.

"When hell freezes over," he said. . . .

Fellow defenseman Calle Johansson also was absent when the team's plane left National Airport yesterday, although his reason was more pleasant. Johansson's fiance, Karin Jansson, gave birth to the couple's first child, an 8-pound 4-ounce girl named Rebecca. Johansson was scheduled to fly to Toronto this morning and should be in the lineup tonight.