John Kordic, who came to the Washington Capitals just three weeks ago after troubled times in Toronto, missed practice yesterday and was suspended for an alcohol-related problem, according to General Manager David Poile.

Kordic, whose physical style helped the Capitals win their last three games, did not show up for yesterday morning's practice at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center. He spent a couple hours yesterday afternoon in Poile's office with Coach Terry Murray and assistant coach John Perpich.

"We talked about his problem and his problem was alcohol-related," Poile said. "John is not going to be with the team at practice {today}, nor will he be with the club on the road trip this weekend. He is seeking professional help and his situation will not be discussed until the team returns next week."

Kordic could not be reached for comment. Poile said there was no involvement with police, but he would not say where Kordic was last night or from whom he will receive treatment.

"He's very distressed and depressed," Poile said.

Kordic, 25, was acquired Jan. 24 along with Paul Fenton for a 1991 fifth-round draft pick. Fenton was then traded to Calgary for Ken Sabourin.

Within the last day or so, Kordic moved into his own apartment and a phone was not to be installed for a couple of days. That was part of the reason why Murray was unsure of the situation when he spoke with reporters after practice.

"I don't know why he isn't here and I don't know where he's at," Murray said at about 12:15 p.m.

Murray and the Capitals had been aware of some erratic behavior by Kordic. The team had been frank about the situation and indicated it would not put up with too many problems. Asked about that, Poile said: "It hit me like a shot between the eyes. I want to take some time before deciding anything or doing anything else. I need that time, which is why there will be no update until the club returns next week."

While Kordic was with the Maple Leafs, he missed one game last season and there were reports of chronic lateness. There were arguments and fights with teammates. After playing just three early season games, the Maple Leafs sent Kordic to their Newmarket farm team.

But in November, Toronto considered Kordic's presence there enough of a disturbance that they told him to go home. He spent most of the next two months in Detroit, where his agent, Howard Gorwitz, lives. Reached by phone before the alcohol problem was identified, Gorwitz said he had no idea why Kordic would have been absent.

"He seemed very happy and satisfied," Gorwitz said of a Monday afternoon conversation with Kordic. "He was pleased the Capitals gave him an opportunity to play and he was happy the team had won all the games he had participated in."

Gorwitz could not be reached for comment later in the day.

The Capitals took a chance on Kordic because they wanted a tougher lineup, and Kordic has never pretended to be anything but an enforcer. Washington was 4-0 with him in the lineup. He had 58 minutes in penalties, including 22 in Sunday's penalty-filled victory over Philadelphia.

"He provided a lot of enthusiasm in the dressing room," said Alan May, who fills a similar role. "A lot of guys on this team are real quiet. He was always talking and having fun. He talks on the ice and in practice. He knew exactly what his job is and doesn't gripe about it or ice time.

"I thought he added quite a bit. We added about 700 pounds to the lineup with a couple trades. We went from being a bad offensive team to a good physical team and it was paying off. At first the guys were iffy on whether we should have gotten him, but he's done his job adequately and the guys came around. As a teammate, we liked him and he's still our teammate."

Because of Kordic's reputation and the rumors that went with it, the Capitals went to unusual lengths to explore his situation before they made the trade. Jack Button, the Capitals' director of player personnel, Murray and then Poile held separate interviews with Kordic in Detroit. Although they wouldn't discuss the problems, they thought Kordic had overcome them.

"He asked me everything," Kordic said of the interview with Murray Jan. 26. "He wanted to know and you can't blame him. I had to realize that 20 other teams didn't take a chance on me. I was sitting around for seven weeks. That opens a guy's eyes to the idea that he's not wanted around the league. I'm grateful to Washington for giving me another chance. I'm not going to let them down, or let my teammates down. Most of all, I won't let myself down."

Capitals Notes: NHL Executive Vice President Brian O'Neill said yesterday he received a videotape of Sunday's game, but had not begun reviewing it. "I can't say at this point how I'm going to deal with it," O'Neill said, adding a decision probably would come within the next few days. . . . There is a new twist to Rod Langway's back problems, which have kept him out of the last 14 games. He spent 3 1/2 hours with a chiropractor Monday and visited him again yesterday, hoping to solve the problem of spasms.