As the Washington Capitals headed west yesterday for a two-game series against the Minnesota North Stars in San Francisco, two more disappointed players went north instead, and another was forced to stay home because of an injury.

Right wing Bryan Erickson was assigned to Binghamton of the American Hockey League, where he ended last season after he scored 15 goals in 57 games with Washington.

Center Claude Dumas, signed to a pro contract Monday, was returned to his Granby junior team in the Quebec League. There, Dumas will be part of a bold experiment. For the next two years, Granby will be coached by Georges Lariviere, a University of Montreal physical education professor, as part of a research project.

It was discovered that right wing Ed Kastelic had suffered a fractured left cheekbone during his fight Sunday with Boston's Lyndon Byers. Although Kastelic will not require surgery, he will be out at least three weeks.

Kastelic played in pain Monday in Hartford and fought with the Whalers' Torrie Robertson. The break was discovered yesterday after he complained of numbness in the cheek.

Kastelic's injury eases the task of General Manager David Poile as he makes his final cuts before the season opener Oct. 10. The roster is down to 25, but with Kastelic and David Jensen out, only one more is likely to be trimmed.

Perhaps the player forcing the most soul-searching among the Capitals' brass is left wing Yvon Corriveau, the team's No. 1 draft pick in June. Although Corriveau is rough around the edges, there is doubt about whether a return to his junior team in Toronto would be of any value.

"I'm not sure that route would do him any good, but if we keep him, we have to play him," said Coach Bryan Murray. "He probably won't be much help until December, but if he develops, he could be possibly a bigger help in April than one of our left wings from last year.

"I'm a great believer in playing kids with potential who are willing to work. All things being equal, I'd rather do that than play a veteran who's not going to get any better."

Corriveau, who turned 18 in February, naturally wants to stay with the Capitals.

"I think my chances are good, but it's all up to me," he said. "I'm working as hard as I can, and I hope they like what they see.

"I have no idea what the coaching staff thinks. And if they do send me back, while I'll be disappointed, I know it'll be because I have to work on a few things. I'll just try to have a big year in junior and make it next year, the way Kevin (Hatcher) did."

One thing that has pleased Corriveau, who is 6 feet 2 and weighs 205 pounds, is the way the veterans have tried to make him feel comfortable, even though some know he is a threat to their jobs.

"I love it here," he said. "Everybody makes you feel at home. They're always trying to help you, and you're never in a tight position. The veterans help you and take you around with them. That means a lot to somebody my age."

Corriveau will play in at least one game of the Minnesota series, which begins tonight, and a big night could lift him over the top. Although he has not scored a goal in three exhibition appearances, that is not a particular detriment, since Washington has shown remarkably balanced -- but insufficient -- scoring, with the 11 goals divided among 11 players.

"I like Corriveau," Poile said. "But I'm certainly not prepared to say he's going to stay here this year. It's definitely more beneficial for him to spend the coming week here, and probably by Monday we'll evaluate his future."

Bob Carpenter, Dave Christian and Andre Hidi will be in uniform tonight after they missed the last four exhibitions with a variety of injuries.