The last time the Bullets lost to Chicago, their standout rookie guard Frank Johnson missed the game because of a sprained left ankle.

The Bulls are back at Capital Centre tonight (WTOP-1500, 8:05) to try to halt Washington's six-game winning streak and, once again, Johnson will be on the sideline with a sprain of the same ankle.

Johnson averaged 10.5 points and 6.4 assists in nine games since replacing John Lucas as a starter, before reinjuring his ankle in a collision with Phil Ford during the first quarter of Saturday night's 109-106 victory in Kansas City.

Although the swelling has decreased considerably, Johnson still was limping yesterday and could not practice. He said he might miss the Bullets' two home games this week before the All-Star Game break.

"I'll have to see how it feels," he said, "but if I miss these two games, then I'll have four more days before we play again. Maybe it just needs a good rest."

Lucas will be in the starting lineup for the first time since he missed a game in Philadelphia Jan. 7 and was demoted by Coach Gene Shue.

"John played well in Kansas City," Shue said, alluding to Lucas' 11 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in 43 minutes. "If he plays like that we can play him a lot of minutes, but if he doesn't we're in trouble.

"I hope Frank can give us some time," the coach continued. "We just can't sustain any injuries. With Frank out, we lose a lot of our flexibility."

The first substitute in the back court behind starters Lucas and Kevin Grevey is Don Collins, but when the 6-foot-6 swing man teams with Grevey, the Bullets don't have a genuine playmaker to run the offense. However, they played together against the Bulls when Johnson was out and also at Kansas City.

Collins was fined $100 for missing yesterday's practice after he failed to get a flight in time from his hometown of Toledo, Ohio.

"When we stopped in Chicago Sunday on our way home, Don asked me if he could spend the day with his family in Toledo," Shue said. "I told him it was all right, as long as he made practice on Monday. Then he calls this morning and says he couldn't get a flight out. That's the last time I'll let him do that."

In his last six games, Collins has averaged 11 points and made 55 percent of his shots, while filling in for Grevey and Greg Ballard, two of the team's most productive scorers.

"We're just not as effective without a playmaking guard," said Shue. "When we run our delayed break, we need a ball handler to set things up, to get the ball to the right people. If Lucas gets in foul trouble and Johnson can't play, our offense won't be as effective."

One big plus in the offense lately has been the shooting of Grevey, who has snapped out of his slump by averaging 18.3 points in his last six games. He had 25 points at Kansas City, including a three-pointer to start the overtime.

"That was a very important win," Grevey said. "We needed to keep our momentum. Now, with two home games this week, we've got a chance to go into the All-Star break with an eight-game winning streak."