It may be time to institute combat pay for National Hockey League referees and linesmen. Four were hurt during the first month of the season, with linesman Ryan Bozak's fractured cheekbone the most serious injury.

Bozak was stationed on the blue line when a puck being cleared out of the offensive zone struck him from no more than 15 feet away.

The incident hardly came as a surprise. Considering how many times the officials have to dodge pucks, it is more surprising injuries do not occur with greater frequency.

Linesman Gord Broseker, who recently officiated his 900th NHL game said, "Our biggest problem is when the puck goes above the glass and you lose it in the crowd. If a guy fires the puck and you're blocked by two or three guys, you have no idea where it's going.

"And a lot of players don't give you a thought. They just dump the puck and if it should hit you, the first thing they say is 'Get out of the road.' "

Jim Gregory, NHL vice president of hockey operations, blames most of the problem on inexperienced defensemen whose first priority is getting the puck out of the zone.

"Experienced guys have a knack -- and enough confidence -- to wait until there's a hole," Gregory said. "But younger players -- and some not so young -- just turn and fire it up the ice without looking."

Broseker, though, thinks some near-misses have been deliberate.

"I think on close plays at the blueline, some guys actually shoot the puck at the linesman so he won't be able to make the call," he said. "Some of it is the new offside rule. Before they'd have to wait or get a whistle. Now they just let it go, figuring, at worst, all they have to do is clear the zone." Savard Starting Quickly

Center Denis Savard has had at least one point in all 15 of Chicago's games, scoring 13 goals and making 23 assists. Savard's hat trick against Minnesota Sunday included one of the more remarkable goals of the season.

"Denis came in one-on-one against {Mike} Berger, their rookie defenseman, and did a complete 360 in front of him -- a little pirouette," said former Blackhawk Cliff Koroll. "Then he put a backhander off the post and into the net. It was some goal."

Asked if he had ever done anything like it, Koroll, who scored 208 goals in his NHL career, replied, "Are you kidding? I'd have broken my ankle if I'd even tried it.". . .

Pittsburgh center Mario Lemieux is unlikely to play against Washington Wednesday. Lemieux suffered back spasms and a bruised shoulder when he was boarded by the Islanders' Alan Kerr. Kerr put Philadelphia's Tim Kerr out of action in April . . . The Boston Bruins will "retire" Phil Esposito's No. 7 sweater at a ceremony Dec. 3, when the Rangers visit Boston. However, defenseman Ray Bourque will continue to wear No. 7.