Reggie Savage played his first NHL game Tuesday because teammates had injuries, but he won't play another for a spell because of an injury of his own.

The Washington Capitals' 20-year-old rookie right wing pulled a groin muscle during yesterday's practice at Mount Vernon Recreation Center.

No one was sure how long he will be out of action, but simply walking away after practice appeared to involve considerable pain.

He will miss tonight's 8:05 game against the Edmonton Oilers at Capital Centre and very likely Sunday afternoon's game against Philadelphia. After that, the team's next game will be Friday in Calgary.

"It's very frustrating," Savage said. "I can't explain my feeling when I was on the ice. I got up and felt the pain. I've been waiting for this {opportunity} for so long; to come out with a stupid accident like this. . . . "

Like several other teams, the Capitals have an inordinately high number of injured players. What's ironic is that Savage and Tim Taylor were the only two Baltimore Skipjacks to play in every Skipjacks game until Savage was called up Monday. Savage's parents, Jean Guy and Rita, are in town and saw him play against Vancouver Tuesday.

"All my friends and family were going to watch the games on satellite," Savage said.

Savage injured himself during a one-on-one drill with defenseman Calle Johansson.

"It's not Calle's fault at all. It's just part of the game," Savage said. "I was a little off balance as Calle hit me. I felt something snap. It's sore right now."

With injuries to right wings Steve Leach and Peter Bondra and to defenseman Rod Langway, the Capitals do not have any extra players. The Skipjacks aren't in much better shape, with Steve Maltais, Jeff Greenlaw, Kent Paynter, Victor Gervais and Bob Babcock all ailing, but Tim Bergland was recalled to fill Savage's spot.

Bergland was sent to Baltimore after clearing waivers, and has played 15 games with the Skipjacks. In that time, he had eight goals and nine assists.

Elsewhere on the injury front, Bondra was asked how he was progressing.

"Good, thanks," said Bondra, whose English improves daily. "But my shoulder is bad."

Although he skated yesterday, Bondra said his left shoulder still is quite sore. Leach, who also has a sore shoulder, said he is slowly improving.

"It's better than {Wednesday}," Leach said. "Today I did things with less pain and it was good to skate."

Skating for about 25 minutes was a pleasant relief for Langway, although sometimes good days have been followed by more soreness.

"{Wednesday} I couldn't get out of bed," said Langway, who didn't have much success with some recent medication to help the back spasms that have sidelined him for 12 games. "{Yesterday} I skated, so that's a plus."

Very much the competitor, Langway would like to be helping the Capitals in their battle to gain the playoffs, and they can use all the help they can get. But his injury also clouds his future. He and General Manager David Poile discussed his situation in a meeting this week. Langway is playing out the option year in his contract. He has expressed a desire to play a couple of more seasons, then work as an assistant coach.

"We talked generally about a lot of things," Poile said. "If his back is okay, then we'll talk about him playing. If it's not okay, then we'll talk about his nonplaying role."

Asked if he thought the back problem was serious enough to keep Langway out for the rest of the season, Poile said: "No. From every indication I've gotten from doctors, they believe he will get better. It's muscle related. It's just taken longer than we all hoped."

Capitals Notes: Armed Forces Television will pick up the HTS telecast and show it live to U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.