After a recent Washington Capitals' game at MCI Center, two amateur teams took the ice. Pohanka Acura played Pohanka Classic. A few hundred relatives and friends watched. Late in a close game, someone in the stands stood up and, urging one of the players to score, shouted, "Put the biscuit in the basket."

If that wasn't Craig Laughlin in the stands -- and it wasn't -- the shrill cry (to put the puck in the goal) suggested that Laughlin's lingo may be catching on in the Washington area. Now in his seventh season as analyst on Capitals television broadcasts, Laughlin has become as familiar an announcer as he was a player during eight seasons in the NHL, 5 1/2 with the Capitals. Players and TV viewers alike call him "Locker."

What comes through in his broadcasts also is apparent in conversation with him -- his love of hockey and his unquenchable enthusiasm. Once, when the Capitals entered the third period of a game trailing 6-0, Laughlin suggested on the air that if they concentrated on chipping away in two-goal increments, they could tie it up. Wasn't that stretching optimism beyond reality? he was asked later.

"I'm a very positive person," he said. "We were down 5-1 at Hartford one time and came back to win 6-5. If you're negative and you're a player, you might as well pack up the bags. Why even play the third period? You've got to build on some sort of positive, whether it be for the next game or your career or whatever. As a professional athlete, you should never think you're out of it."

Laughlin often conveys his zeal as a broadcaster in hockey-speak, which derives from his years of playing the game. "It's my natural talk," he said. "That's the way we talked as players. Before a game we used to talk about denting the twine. Who's going to dent the twine tonight?' Gimme the biscuit."

The "coconut" he refers to is a player's helmet. A "face wash" is when a player puts his glove into an opponent's face and tries to alter his features. "You face wash a guy in the corner," Laughlin explained. "Dale Hunter is famous for it. Anytime he gets in a scrum, he puts his glove right in the guy's face and tries to twist his nose and rearrange his nose. That's a face wash."

"Top shelf, peanut butter" is Laughlin's way of saying that a goal lands high in the net, or where one might keep peanut butter if the goal mouth was viewed as a cabinet with shelves.

Then there are the nicknames. Laughlin rarely encounters a name he can't shorten or otherwise alter. "Banzai" is Peter Bondra; "Kono" is Steve Konowalchuk; "Niko" is Andrei Nikolishin; "Huntsie" is Hunter. "Koho" is referee Don Koharski. Before a recent Capitals game at MCI Center, Laughlin paused as he looked down the roster of the visiting Phoenix Coyotes and came to the name Juha Ylonen. It's pronounced You-ha Yu-lonen. Laughlin loves the sound of it and never misses an opportunity to say it. Ylonen can skate from blueline to blueline in the time Laughlin takes to draw out each syllable in the name.

Put it all together and a viewer might hear something like this during a game on HTS or Channel 50: "That's Banzai' putting the biscuit top shelf, peanut butter. And Koho' missed Huntsie' giving that face wash to Juha Ylonen."

But there's another side to "Locker" that, all kidding aside, enables him to make perfect sense to a viewer. He knows his hockey, works hard to keep up to date and explains and amplifies succinctly in the brief moments the fast-paced sport allows.

Hours before the game with the Coyotes, he gathered information for his telecast. Capitals assistant coach Tim Army briefed him in a room adjacent to the team's locker room. In the visitors' area, Laughlin sought out a number of Coyotes, including former Capitals teammate Mike Gartner. Gartner delayed Laughlin's fact-finding mission for a humorous aside, recounting a time when Laughlin taped an interview with him.

"I said to him, You're not going to get nervous are you?' " Gartner recalled. "And Locker says, I never get nervous.' The producer goes, Five, four, three, two . . .' Locker says, Hold it. Hold it.' " Laughlin feigned a protest. "You were making me laugh," he said.

As a game nears, Laughlin tends to shrug off the byplay. He grows more serious, accumulating more information than he can use during a telecast. Before he arrived at the arena for the Phoenix game, he had almost filled two large sheets of paper with facts about players from both teams. Then, from his conversations, he added still more data. As a Capitals player, Laughlin, like most of his teammates, was described as "hard-working." The same can be said for him now.

"I want to have a good telecast," he said.

"A lot of the delivery is light-hearted and fun," said Laughlin's play-by-play partner, Joe Beninati. "But we want the game to be of major importance. From a technical aspect, he is very smooth at going from live action to tape and very smooth at breaking down the tape. He's excellent with the TeleStrator. He can educate the viewer who's not as familiar with the game."

Laughlin often makes his points in those moments when the puck is in the defensive end, then gives way to Beninati as a team rushes up ice. When there's a lull in the play, Laughlin has the time to make his swirls and arrows on the TeleStrator a la John Madden.

Last Sept. 14, Laughlin turned 40. He said he began thinking that maybe he should be more serious in general. For one thing he asked himself, Am I going to have a brush cut the rest of my life? He decided to let his hair grow. He's an executive, after all. Besides working as a color analyst, he's executive director of hockey for SkateNation, six skating facilities on the East Coast, and president of hockey operations for the Richmond Renegades of the East Coast Hockey League. Harry Feuerstein is his partner in those ventures. Feuerstein likes Laughlin the way he is.

"He's a good person," Feuerstein said. "He knows hockey. And he's loved. We can be walking down the street in Hampton, Virginia, {Hampton Roads is an ECHL rival} and I'll be booed while he's being asked for his autograph. . . .

"One of my wife's pregnancies was tough and he used to make her laugh. She was in the hospital and we'd get a television in there because she enjoyed watching him."

Laughlin always has been happy-go-lucky. He grew up in Toronto and attended Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., where he played hockey and met his wife, Linda. (They have a daughter, Courtney, and a son, Kyle). The Montreal Canadiens drafted him, and during the 1981-82 season promoted him from the minors to the big club. In that first game, as he was playing left wing, a memorable moment unfolded. A partial line change left him on the ice when the immortal Guy Lafleur came over the boards.

"The Flower' is flying down the right wing, his hair blowing, and I remember looking over at him, and the fans are going crazy. So what does he do? He goes full speed down the wing and I step to the middle. He goes wide, taps the puck right there, and I just one-time it as hard as I can. I didn't even look where I was shooting. All of a sudden, top corner. Boom, my first goal. So a few days later they gave me this big plaque with a CH' and the puck. I got this plaque saying, assisted by Flower' and Larry Robinson."

Laughlin, who had been seated, got to his feet as he described the play, and diagramed it on a board in his SkateNation office at Piney Orchard. He was full of fervor, and it was hard to imagine that he could be any other way for long.

Up in the booth at MCI Center, as game time neared, he was all business.

"Now," he said, "we gotta come up with the keys to the game,' " a catchy line for each team that can be put up on the screen early in the broadcast. "The Coyotes have to play a very conservative road game." He thought.

Beninati walked into the booth, whistling.

Beninati: "How about K.I.S.S.' "

Laughlin: "You want Keep It Simple, Stupid' again?

Beninati: "Have we done that?"

Laughlin: "No."

Beninati: "Seal It With A K.I.S.S.' It's the end of a road trip. They go home tonight."

Laughlin (writing it down, looking pleased): "That's my lingo."

And when the camera came on, Laughlin filled the screen with a grin and, in his high-pitched voice, launched into his "keys to the game." He looked perfectly relaxed and happy -- and he was. Who would want him to be more serious, to be anything other than the inimitable "Locker"? "My wife said today, I will never grow up," he related earlier. "I think she's right. I'm always going to be a kid at heart. And I'm always going to be involved with hockey." CAPTION: Some of Craig "Locker" Laughlin's signature lines include putting biscuit in basket, denting the twine and giving a guy a face wash. CAPTION: "A lot of the delivery is light-hearted and fun," said play-by-play man Joe Beninati, left, of his telecasts with ex-Washington Capital Craig Laughlin.