The Washington Capitals will decide "in the next two or three days" whether to give the go-ahead for minor knee surgery on goaltender Mike Palmateer, according to General Manager Roger Crozier.

If Palmateer does undergo an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee, he will be lost to the Capitals for between two and three weeks, possibly longer, Crozier said yesterday.

"According to the doctor (team physician P.M. Palumbo Jr.), he's got a piece of floating cartilage in there," Crozier said. "It's a very painful thing and something has to be done about it. He's tried resting it and that doesn't seem to do it. I don't question Mike's desire to play for us. I've never had a problem with the guy. It's strictly a medical thing."

Palmateer last played in a 6-2 loss to Hartford on Nov. 28. He has skated twice since then and wanted to play against Toronto on Dec. 5, claiming he could win there "on one leg." Coach Bryan Murray told him if he could not play in Washington he could not play in Toronto.

Palmateer then was listed to start last Friday against the Leafs at Capital Centre, but, after skating in the morning, he reported that his knee still hurt, that the cartilage was grating against the bone. He was scratched from that game and did not accompany the team on its current three-game road trip.

"The knee's cost me at least a dozen goals this year," Palmateer said yesterday. "I just don't have any lateral movement. It's gotten to the point where we've got to do something. I'll know more in the next couple of days."

Palmateer also said yesterday he has no desire to be traded, that he is happy in Washington and wants to stay here.

That apparently was not the case earlier in the season, according to Crozier. He said that Palmateer came to him in October and told him he was unhappy. "It was a combination of things," Crozier said yesterday. "(Gary) Green wasn't playing him and we weren't winning."

Even before his knee problems, attempts to trade Palmateer had been unsuccesful. One problem was Palmateer's estimated $190,000-a-year contract. Palmateer always has had a reputation as a poor practice player and he and Green had several disputes over the goalie's refusal to bear down in practice and to confine himself to the area around the goal crease.

Murray alluded to those problems when he said earlier in the week "if the guy is healthy, he has the potential to be a good goaltender in this league. It's a matter of health and willingness to do it.

"He can help this team, but he has to have the desire to be the No. 1 guy and his work habits have to improve. He wants to change his whole style, to be a stand-up goaltender because he has difficulty in a deep crouch, holding it for any length of time. That may be difficult."

Palmateer said yesterday, "I never asked to be traded. I'm very happy here, despite some of the reports in the press. I'd like to play for the Capitals. I like Bryan Murray, he's turned it around. He's a positive factor. I have no problems with the team. The only problem I have is the knee, and I hope that can be taken care of soon."