The Washington Capitals, plagued by injuries the past several seasons, yesterday named local orthopedic surgeon Ben Shaffer the team's new physician.

Shaffer, 41, has been associate professor of orthopedic surgery and director of the division of sports medicine at Georgetown University for the past seven years. He is physician for all of Georgetown's sports teams, a position he will continue to hold.

"I'm very excited," Shaffer said yesterday. "It's a unique challenge and opportunity to work with an organization like the Capitals."

During the past three seasons, the Capitals have lost more man-games to injuries than nearly any other NHL team. The team led the league with 511 man-games lost to injuries last season; Nashville was second, at 398. General managers and coaches consider 200 man-games lost per season a reasonable number.

Shaffer is a graduate of the University of Florida and its medical school. He completed his residency at the Hospital for Joint Disease and Orthopedic Institute in New York. He then completed his sports medicine fellowship training at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles.

Capitals General Manager George McPhee phoned Shaffer late in the season and asked him to consult on one of the Capitals' injured players, Shaffer said. McPhee then contacted Shaffer again about a month ago about the open position, after the team's physicians had resigned.

The Capitals recently were bought by an investor group led by Ted Leonsis, who is president of America Online's interactive properties.