When a crisis affecting the Washington Capitals offers the possibility of good news or bad news, followers of the exacerbating hockey club have learned to prepare for the least palatable alternative.

That was what they got yesterday, as center Guy Charron underwent a three-hour operation to repair what Dr. Pat Palumbo called a serious tear of the lateral ligaments in the right knee.

The surgery went well, Palumbo said, but Charron will be lost for the rest of the season. Palumbo said the knee would be in a cast for six to eight weeks and Charron will then require six to eight additional weeks of rehabilitation.

Charron was injured early in the first period of Tuesday's 5-4 victory over Winnipeg. He put on a brace after the first period and finished the game, but the knee stiffened up Wednesday. It was hoped the ligaments were merely stretched, but exploratory surgery yesterday revealed the more serious tear and the operation was performed immediately.

Charron who underwent offseason surgery in May for torn cartilage in his left knee, had played 274 straight NHL games before he suffered a pulled right thigh muscle against Toronto Oct. 19. That injury and recurrences forced him to miss 13 games. He had recorded 11 goals and 20 assists in 33 games.

The Capitals, after 46 games, show 194 man-games lost through injury. Dennis Maruk, who has missed 38 games since he underwent knee surgery Nov. 1, skated briefly yesterday and is expected back in action sometime in March.

The virus that affected 25 members of the Capitals' traveling party to Quebec last weekend has dissipated, with only Roger Crozier, the club's assistant general manager, remaining on the sick list.

While the Capitals wait for the Islanders' Al Arbour to choose their playing representative to the Feb. 5 NHL All-Star Game in Detroit, one member of the Washington organization has already been honored. Trainer Gump Embro will serve the medical needs of the Campbell Conference team.