Washington Capitals Coach Ron Wilson has been growing a goatee lately not only to try to change his team's luck, but also as part of a bet with new primary owner Ted Leonsis. Sources said Leonsis challenged Wilson to grow a goatee matching his--Leonsis jokingly doubted the coach's ability to do so. Wilson has met the challenge--in growing the goatee and pleasing the Capitals' owners on the team's progress. Sources said the payoff will come next week when the team finally makes a one-year contract extension official.

The team had planned to give extensions to Wilson and General Manager George McPhee a month ago, but the move was delayed. Now, sources said both one-year deals are all but finalized. This season was the final year of Wilson's and McPhee's contracts and their first season under new ownership. Former owner Abe Pollin brought in the pair before the 1997-98 season.

Wilson makes $750,000 this season, among the 10 highest-paid coaches in the NHL. The Capitals' owners have been pleased with the work of Wilson's coaching staff and McPhee's front office team. If the club continues to progress next season, negotiations on lengthier deals could take place.

Still on the Mend

Forwards Chris Simon (neck sprain), Peter Bondra (knee ligament tear) and defenseman Joe Reekie (bruised foot) missed last night's 1-0 loss to Montreal with injuries, though all are progressing well in their recovery. Simon and Reekie skated hard yesterday and could be playing by the weekend. Bondra, who had minor knee surgery eight days ago, was cleared to begin skating Wednesday and will not accompany the team to New York this weekend.

"The doctors said everything looks pretty good," Bondra said. "I definitely hope I can play next week. That's what we're shooting for if everything goes right."

Even when the Capitals return to their full complement of players, it's likely they will keep extra players around rather than send them to Portland. Wilson wants to encourage healthy competition for playing time.

"I hate to put it this way, but when you have an extra player--an extra defenseman an extra forward--there is backside pressure," Wilson said. "It means that there is someone in the press box looking down that applies pressure to the guys who are going on the ice. It's a lot easier to have that than me just stepping on a guy's back."