Right wing Reggie Savage, the Washington Capitals' No. 1 draft choice in 1988, will make his National Hockey League debut tonight against the Vancouver Canucks at Capital Centre.

Savage, 20, was summoned from Baltimore yesterday after shoulder injuries forced wingers Steve Leach and Peter Bondra out of the lineup for a week to 10 days.

Savage had played all 53 games for the Skipjacks, collecting 25 goals and 25 assists.

"I'm pretty happy about it {the promotion} and really surprised," he said. "I had a good training camp, but after training camp they said they wanted me to play in Baltimore all year. It was in my mind that I would stay there, but you never know in this game."

This is Savage's first professional season, and he recorded his first hat trick Saturday at Hershey, as the Skipjacks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers' farmhands, 6-5.

"It was pretty exciting to get a hat trick in Hershey," Savage said. "Baltimore and Hershey is a big rivalry and each time they play you know it's a big game. Emotions get so high, you often get high-sticked, but it's part of the game. You can't worry about that."

Savage is black, the son of a Haitian immigrant to Canada, and was adopted by a white French Canadian couple. He has taken more than his share of abuse and the Capitals have been impressed by the way he gets up and goes about his job when he is the victim of a cheap shot.

Coach Terry Murray said that Savage most likely would play in weekend games against Edmonton and Philadelphia, as well as tonight.

Although he knows this could be just a three-game visit followed by a return to Baltimore, Savage wants to provide Capital Centre fans with positive memories.

"I know it's because of injuries, but maybe it's a big break for me," Savage said. "I'm looking to play tomorrow, practice with the team, play over the weekend and each day build experience and confidence at this level. I also want to enjoy myself. I've been working hard in Baltimore and enjoying myself and I don't expect that to change."

Murray indicated that Savage might play on a line with John Druce and Michal Pivonka, two of Washington's better forwards.

"I don't mind playing with anybody," Savage said. "I'll play anywhere, just so I'm playing. I played center the last four years and I've been playing right wing this season, but I'll play defense if they want me to. I just want to play hockey."

Murray said: "Savage is playing well and scoring goals down there. I saw him play Sunday and he worked hard at both ends of the rink. He's a guy capable of coming up and making some things happen. He'll be here the next three games and we'll see what happens."

If it was a good day for Savage, it was a bad one for winger Bob Joyce and defenseman Rod Langway.

Joyce, who had been in Baltimore the last two weeks for conditioning, was placed on waivers for the purpose of assigning him permanently to the Skipjacks.

Joyce, who began the season in Baltimore, had three goals and three assists in 18 games with Washington. He has seven goals and six assists in 19 games with the Skipjacks.

Langway, who skated Saturday and Sunday, stayed off the ice yesterday and was uncertain whether his back problems would permit him to skate today. His return to action awaits a lessening of the pain that has created a pinching sensation in the buttock.

"I skated a half-hour or 40 minutes {Sunday} and it was really tight when I got off the ice," he said. "I have movement, but it's jerky. I'm on medication and hopefully it will relieve the tension. But I can't play hockey {by} skating two days and taking a day off."

Leach bruised his right shoulder in Saturday's 4-2 loss to Winnipeg and Bondra bruised his left shoulder during Sunday's practice, when he fell as he was checked by Mikhail Tatarinov.

The Capitals almost encountered further woe yesterday, when Alan May collided with Al Iafrate. May reported minor shoulder pain that will not keep him out tonight.

The injury list at Baltimore includes forwards Jeff Greenlaw (ankle), Thomas Sjogren (thigh), Steve Maltais (thigh), John Purves (knee) and Victor Gervais (back) and defensemen Kent Paynter (ankle) and Bobby Babcock (ankle).