A longtime NHL executive--a man instrumental in putting together teams that won six Stanley Cups--sat in the press box at Marine Midland Arena in Buffalo scouting the Washington Capitals Friday night, and came away with two observations: If the Capitals stay healthy they are a playoff team, and their second line has the makings of a first line.

The Capitals figure to battle Carolina and Florida for supremacy in the Southeast Division. If the line of Richard Zednik, Jan Bulis and Steve Konowalchuk can continue its torrid play through the first three games, their chances look even better.

The line was by far the Capitals' best in their 4-3 season-opening loss to the Panthers, and again dominated in Washington's 3-2 victory over the Sabres Friday night. Last night, it created the most consistent scoring chances when the team struggled as a whole to mount a serious offensive attack.

Bulis scored three of the team's first six goals, Konowalchuk has been tireless along the boards and Zednik has been a constant threat, coming agonizingly close to finding the net several times.

The line blends size, strength, speed and uncanny skill.

"They've been pretty unbelievable," Coach Ron Wilson said. "There were times when they've completely dominated and it's nice to see Buli keep scoring, and it's only a matter of time before Zed and Kono score. They're learning, but they're intense, and that's really good to see. Last year they'd take a shift off here or there and worry if they didn't score the last shift and get in a funk.

"They seem really motivated this year. You know they've got incentive-laden contracts--a lot of their contract is based upon producing and revisions--and that's a good sign. Whether it's internal or external, the motivation is there for those guys right now."

News & Notes

Defenseman Joe Reekie missed his second consecutive game with a lacerated pinky finger he suffered in practice. He is being listed as day-to-day. . . .

Mike Eagles and Ulf Dahlen were again healthy scratches last night. . . .

Last night's game was the 25th anniversary of the Capitals' first NHL game, Oct. 9, 1974, a 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. . . .

Rookie Jeff Halpern was sporting new black dress shoes Saturday, meeting with the team's approval after some veterans painted Halpern's shoes white Friday in Buffalo. Halpern, a Potomac native, played his first regular season NHL game in front of his friends and family last night.