The Washington Capitals' medical report yesterday turned out to be less favorable than the club's recent on-ice performance.

Winger Bengt Gustafsson was found to have a cracked rib and will be unavailable for today's 1:30 Capital Centre game against the Hartford Whalers. And goaltender Mike Palmateer will not play again this season.

Gustafsson left Thursday's 9-1 victory over St. Louis in the second period. He was in considerable pain with what at the time was believed to be a pulled muscle in the rib cage. X-rays yesterday, however, revealed the crack.

"It's going to be a day-to-day situation, but he's definitely out tomorrow," said General Manager Roger Crozier. "It's too bad, because Gusty has really been coming on. He has been playing very well the last two weeks."

Meanwhile, to nobody's surprise, Palmateer has been ruled unavailable for further play this season. Although he practiced with the team this week, Palmateer's ailing right knee repeatedly swelled, and Dr. Stephen Haas, the Capitals' orthopedic surgeon, told Crozier it would only respond to prolonged rest.

"The knee was getting worse and it did not help it to force the issue," Crozier said. "On Dr. Haas' advice, Palmy will not be available for the balance of the season."

Palmateer last played Nov. 28. He underwent minor surgery on the knee Nov. 30 and again Dec. 21. At the time, the problem was traced to an injury suffered in training camp in December. However, Palmateer had similar surgery on the knee after the close of last season, keeping him out of the world championships.

For pleasant news, the Capitals could watch the videotape of Thursday's game, when Bobby Carpenter put four goals past Mike Liut and Washington tied a club record with nine consecutive goals.