Defenseman Gord Lane will spend his second straight Saturday in the press box when the Washington Capitals face the New York Islanders tonight at Nassau Coliseum.

Lane yesterday was assessed a one-game suspension by NHL Executive Vice President Brian O'Neill, for instigating a 38-man brawl during Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Capital Centre.

Lane, after fighting with the Wings' Dennis Polonich, broke away from linesman Gerald Gauthier and skated past the Detroit Bench, waving his fist in challenge. The Wings' Rick Bowness came over the boards in acceptance of Lane's invitation and everyone else in uniform followed. Bowness already had served an automatic one-game suspension for his act.

"Gordie was judged as being the prior instigator," said Washington General Manager Max McNab, informed of the suspension by O'Neill. "It was a matter of evening the score to a degree, providing equal penalty. Things did get out of hand and it was somewhat surprising to see the depth of the strain in feelings between our organizations."

McNab was in Madison, Wisc, yesterday, attending a banquet for the University of Wisconsin hockey team, for whom his son, David, was a goaltender. Mcnab spoke to a couple of other graduating seniors on the fourth-place NCAA club and said he expected at least one to attend the Capitals' training camp in the fall.

Lane's suspension was his second in a week. He missed the 5-0 loss in Montreal on March 25, after leaving the penalty box to pursue the New York Rangers' Nick Fotiu the previous night.

The delay in O'Neill's ruling, originally promised Tuesday but set back first by customs' insistence on viewing the videotape and by O'Neill's other duties, permitted Lane to play Thursday night in Colorado, where his second goal of the season contributed to the Capitals' 4-3 comeback victory over the Rockies.

That success jeopardized the Capitals' hopes of gaining the No. l choice in the Une amateur draft - presumablu 6-foot-4 Bob Smith - but McNab said, "We're satisfied to make every effort to win and obtain the maximum possible points, even if it should be our destiny to go part Minnesota."

Should the Capitals win tonight (WDCA-TV 20 at 8 p.m.), it would be their first success against the Islanders. New York has won 12, with three tied.

The series is a strange one, with the Islanders posting five shutout victories at Capital Centre, where they have outscored the Capitals by 35-6 in eight games. At Nassau Coliseum, in six loses and one tie, Washington has been outscored only 34-14 and has not been blanked.

This game is vital to the Islanders, who rank third in overall points but lead Buffalo by only one. Playoff pairings are determinded by regular-season points and, barring early-round upsets, the fourth-place team will face Philadelphia in the quarterfinals and Montreal in the semifinals. The third-place finisher is paired first with Toronto and later with Boston.