BAYONNE, N.J., FEB. 26 -- John Kordic, reinstated by the Washington Capitals last week after a suspension that followed his admission he is an alcoholic, received a one-game suspension from the NHL today as the result of an obscene gesture he made to hecklers during the Capitals' 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils Monday night.

Kordic was given a game-misconduct penalty. Since it is his third game-misconduct of the season, he was automatically suspended for the following game, which will be Wednesday night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

The Capitals also will play without Peter Bondra, who, against the Devils, reinjured the troublesome left shoulder that sidelined him for seven games and could keep him out for another week.

Kordic, whose troubles have been well-documented, was heckled for much of the evening, which is nothing new. Kordic said some fans at Brendan Byrne Arena spit at him as the Capitals were leaving the ice at the end of the second period.

"It was stupid on my part," Kordic said today after practice at Bayonne High School. "But when you're losing, 5-1, after two periods and some fan {spits on you}, you'd get a little hot too."

Kordic was upset because immediately after the game he said he was told by John D'Amico, the officiating supervisor, that the penalty was a gross misconduct and not a game misconduct. A gross misconduct would have allowed him to play against the Rangers.

D'Amico could not be reached for comment, but the mix-up appeared to stem from the conversation in the hallway after the game. The penalty had been announced as a game-misconduct, and Bryan Lewis, the NHL's director of officiating, said that is exactly what referee Paul Stewart called. Rule 68(a) stipulates a game-misconduct penalty for obscene gestures.

"It always seems like I get the short end of the stick," Kordic said.

"I appreciate his intensity and that he is trying to fire guys up," Coach Terry Murray said. "But in that situation, it does hurt the team, it does hurt him and it does look bad. He's got to control his emotions. Fans, historically, are on the opposition. When they are booing, you have to take it as a compliment."

With Kordic suspended and Bondra added to the team's long injury list, the Capitals decided to call up forward Steve Maltais from Baltimore. General Manager David Poile said he would wait until after the Skipjacks game tonight against Adirondack to make the move.

The Devils' Brendan Shanahan was called for slashing on the play in which Bondra hurt his shoulder, although Bondra did not attribute the injury to the slash. Poile said he hasn't decided whether to ask the league to review the slash.

Meanwhile, defenseman and team captain Rod Langway, who decided just before game time that he was in too much pain to play against the Devils, took part in today's optional practice, but he may not know until Wednesday's warm-ups if he will play. Defenseman Mike Lalor was to arrive in New York tonight. He missed Monday's game because his wife, Leanne, gave birth to their second child, MacLean.

The loss to the fourth-place Devils dropped the fifth-place Capitals five points back in the race for the Patrick Division's final playoff spot.

Murray said he needs "a big performance" from goalie Mike Liut, who relieved Hrivnak after the score went to 4-1 Monday and will start against the Rangers.

The Capitals did not throw nearly as many checks Monday as in their previous two games, a win and a comeback tie. Dino Ciccarelli said the players were cautioned about taking dumb penalties, lest they have to try to kill as many (seven) as in Sunday's 5-5 tie with Pittsburgh. The penalties were down, but so was the forechecking.

"We should be able to play a bump-and-grind style without taking penalties," Kelly Miller said.

The Capitals seem to have several pesonalities as a team, but Miller is not shocked by that.

"The team is still struggling to find its identity," he said. "When you go through a season with a lot of changes, that's going to be a problem. We're still figuring out how to work together. Hopefully, we can get it together before time runs out."