Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, calling himself "the eternal optimist," said today that he expects a federal agency to approve the sale of First Maryland Savings and Loan Association within a matter of days and "maybe even momentarily."

Hughes' upbeat message, which was similar to one he delivered to reporters a week ago, came three months to the day after the state government seized control of First Maryland, which has a deficit of $26 million. The 35,000 customers of the Silver Spring-based thrift have had virtually no access to their $281 million in deposits since Nov. 20.

First Maryland depositors and Hughes are waiting for the Federal Home Loan Bank Board in Washington to approve the sale of the thrift to Yorkridge-Calvert Savings & Loan of Baltimore, a step that state officials say would quickly free the frozen deposits and end the state liability for the thrift.

Hughes said officials in the bank board's regional office in Atlanta have recommended approval of the First Maryland sale and that "we could expect approval . . . by the board, maybe even momentarily."

A bank board spokeswoman said today that lawyers for First Maryland and federal officials were still working on the sale application in Atlanta and that there was "no time frame yet" on when the three-member board in Washington would act on the proposed transaction.

Last week, the First Maryland negotiations appeared to move forward after a two-month impasse when Yorkridge officers complied with a federal request and agreed to make significant management changes.

Also today at his regular weekly news conference, Hughes expressed hope about the negotiations on the sale of the crippled Community Savings and Loan in Bethesda to Meritor Savings Bank of Arlington.

The governor indicated that the Community sale has been delayed because Meritor has been unable to determine the value of Community's far-flung assets. The bank board's insistence that in addition to Community, Meritor acquire an ailing, federally insured savings association in southwest Virginia also has stalled the Community sale, said Hughes.