The Washington Capitals will begin the 1999-2000 season Oct. 2 with a road game against the Florida Panthers and will play their home opener Oct. 9 against the Los Angeles Kings.

Their schedule, released yesterday by the NHL, also includes a New Year's Day game at home against the St. Louis Blues despite the possibility of so-called Y2K problems related to the calendar changing from 1999 to 2000. In addition, there is a home game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon, Jan. 30, and three nationally televised games on ESPN2.

Leaguewide, play will begin Oct. 1 and the regular season will end April 9. In each instance, that is about a week earlier than in past seasons. Last season, play began Oct. 9 and the regular season ended April 18; the Stanley Cup finals ended June 19.

The Capitals will embark on a nine-day, four-game trip to the West Coast, with games against Phoenix, Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose, at the end of October. Coach Ron Wilson said the trip, which follows four consecutive home games, will give the team a chance to jell.

"I like that at different times we have the opportunity to spend time on the road," Wilson said. "That's a great opportunity for [the players] to get to know each other. We have some different faces this year and you want to come together quickly as a team. I like being on the road early to get some of the kinks out."

Wilson jokingly referred to the Y2K issue, which many people believe is going to cause mayhem throughout the computer world. "I assume the players can get to the rink," Wilson said. "I just hope St. Louis gets there on time."

The team has a crowded schedule from January through March. It will play 14 games in each of the first three months of the year, including 10 away games in February. "January and February are really packed," Wilson said. "We play almost every other day for two or three months."

Wilson said overall that he liked the schedule, especially because it gives his players time to spend a couple of weeks at home around Christmas. "That always makes things easier on the home front when the players are home during the holidays. We are human, and sometimes people forget that you would like to be at home."