Washington Bullets center/forward Jeff Ruland will travel to Rochester, N.Y., today to have his injured left knee examined, a move the veteran feels will result in arthroscopic surgery by the end of the week.

Ruland is to be examined by an orthopedist, Dr. Kenneth DeHaven, at Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

"I guess there's always an outside chance that I won't have to have it surgery , but I don't think that's the case," Ruland said yesterday. "I'm really only going to confirm what I know."

Meanwhile, the Bullets will play their 41st game this season without Ruland tonight when they meet the Dallas Mavericks at Capital Centre at 7:30.

Ruland did not play in Monday night's 100-93 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers after playing in the Bullets' two previous games -- a loss to Philadelphia on Friday and a victory over Indiana the following night. It was at halftime of the latter game that Ruland's knee began to swell, a condition that had not dissipated three days later.

Before his return Friday, Ruland had missed Washington's 12 previous games because of what was diagnosed as a strain in the knee. At one point, though, the five-year veteran said he thought there was more damage to the joint than that, a feeling based on an injury he suffered in the last game of his junior year at Iona College. At that time, Ruland had an arthroscopy done.

Yesterday, Ruland said that the potential surgery would involve "trimming something down, maybe the miniscus. I'm not sure."

Ruland said that if surgery is required, it probably would be performed Thursday or Friday. If that's the case, it likely will end what has been an injury-plagued and frustrating year. Besides his knee problems, Ruland has suffered a bruised left shin and an avulsion fracture and severe sprain in his right ankle.

"It's just been a very crummy year," he said. "I just want to go ahead and make a decision. Hopefully, if I have surgery it will be out of the way and I can just move on from there."

The Bullets are 20-23 in games that Ruland has missed and 34-38 overall. Although the players obviously would prefer to have Ruland -- along with his season averages of 19 points and 10.7 rebounds per game -- in the lineup, they are hopeful of doing well in the playoffs without him.

"That's just something you have to do," said forward Cliff Robinson. "We have to do the best that we can."

Kevin Loughery, who has coached the Bullets to a 2-1 record since taking over for Gene Shue a week ago, said he expects Tom McMillen to pick up some minutes at center in Ruland's absence.

"Tom hasn't been playing very much, but I already know what he can do," said Loughery, who coached McMillen in Atlanta. "It's just a shame about Jeff. I would love for him to play, but I leave things like that up to the doctors and medical people."

The Bullets announced the appointment of Garnett Slatton as executive vice president yesterday, replacing Jerry Sachs, who will remain with the team. Slatton will be responsible for all non-basketball matters.