The Washington Capitals' injury list continues to grow and grow. The latest victim is defenseman Rick Green, who will be missing at least three weeks to permit a separated shoulder to heal.

Green had been playing hurt since the Dec. 21 game in New York, when he apparently aggravated a less serious earlier injury.

"It's been bothering him for a while," said general manager Max McNab. "He hurt it again in New York and it finally reached the point where he just couldn't go. We kept watching Hershey, hoping (Jean) Lemieux would be back sooner. Now, for at least a time we'll have to go with five defensemen. The rest of the guys will have to suck it up for a while.

"We thought we had depth at defense, but the injury bug has spread through the whole system. And they're not overnight things."

Yvon Labre, who underwent knee surgery Nov. 8, has been skating, but is not expected to be able to play for another month. Jack Lynch, whose knee surgery Dec. 15 was more severe, has been lost for the season.

Lemieux, another shoulder-separation victim, has seen only spot duty at Hershey. Pete Scamurra, bothered by a recurring leg muscle problem, returned to the Hershey lineup last night after a month layoff.

McNab said Lemieux and Scamurra would be watched closely during weekend play and, if either seemed sharp enough, he would be recalled for Monday's home game with Pittsburgh.

As further evidence that a cloud is pursuing the Capitals, defenseman Jim Bannatyne of Port Huron, a Washington farm, sufferend a broken leg this week.

The Capitals dressed only 18 men, one below the NHL limit, for last night's game with the New York Rangers. Left wing Bob Girard was idled by a pulled groin muscle, marking the first time in his NHL career he had missed a game because of injury.

Right wing Bob Sirois, who missed Wednesday's game at Pittsburgh because of a muscle spasm in his neck, shifted to left wing last night. Guy Charron was at center and Doug Patey on the right side.