Left wing Craig Patrick, the Washington Capitals' best-conditioned player, was assigned to Hershey of the American Hockey League yesterday because he couldn't put the puck in the net.

Patrick, 31, cleared waivers at noon when the remaining 17 NHL clubs failed to submit a claim. He has been one of the biggest disappointments of a disappointing season here, scoring only one goal in 45 games after a fine preseason display.

Nelson Burton, who scored a goal in his first NHL, game against Chicago Nov. 2 was called up from Hershey to face the Boston Bruins last night. However, since Boston is technically a hockey amateur and had already played four NHL games, he cannot perform in any additional games unless he is signed to a pro contract.

Burton, who underwent surgery for an infected elbow Nov. 28, scored one goal and collected 123 penalty minutes in 20 games at Hershey.

"We've only seen him with a bad elbow here," said general manager Max McNab. "We want to evaluate him before the reentry draft. Unless we decide to offer him a pro contract, he can only play one game, but we'll get a look at him in practice, too."

The capital depart Monday for Vancouver to begin a six-game road trip. If Burton is returned to Hershey, it is likely Washington will call up Tony White. There is a possibility that Blair Stewart, sound after knee surgery, would fill the spot, but he has not played all season and McNab indicated he would prefer to have Stewart get some playing time in Hershey.