Jeff Ruland, the Washington Bullets center who has missed the team's last nine games because of a strained right shoulder, is expected to play in tonight's game at Indiana (8:05, WDCA-TV-20).

Cliff Robinson, however, did not make the trip to Indianapolis. The 6-foot-9 forward, the Bullets' third-leading scorer and rebounder, has missed 10 games with a sprained right knee and a strained right leg.

"It will mean more consistent rebounding, a more productive offense and obviously more depth up front," Coach Gene Shue said of Ruland's return.

In Ruland's absence, the Bullets have been outrebounded in all but one of their games.

Shue said, though, that the starting lineup should not change. Ruland, averaging 19.1 points and 11.2 rebounds, is not expected to start because he has been out for so long, Shue said.

A team spokesman said Robinson's "day-to-day" playing status will be reassessed before Saturday's game against Boston at Capital Centre.

The Bullets have won seven of 10 games without Robinson; they are 6-3 without Ruland and Robinson. They have won five of their last six.

Tom McMillen has started the last nine games in their absence and has averaged 16.7 points in those games. He played all 48 minutes Wednesday against Chicago, and Shue said he will start again tonight against Indiana.

Washington (27-20) is 3-0 against Indiana this season. The Pacers are 15-31 and in fifth place in the Central Division.