The plan was for Washington Capitals forward Yogi Svejkovsky to solidify himself as an everyday NHL player this season. The hope was that the 23-year-old would extend his glimpses of brilliance for an entire season and fulfill the promise he has shown the past two years. Through the first quarter of the season, that has not been the case.

Svejkovsky's injury problems cropped up again this season, delaying his progress. He is healthy now, but is still watching games from the press box. Svejkovsky has been a healthy scratch the past two games, including last night's contest against division rival Carolina. He's stuck in a tough position--the top three lines are playing well and his offensive game doesn't lend itself to a spot on a little-used fourth line.

"We've been playing so well when he was out of the lineup, so I don't see any reason to make dramatic changes," Coach Ron Wilson said. "And other people have filled little roles. Ulf [Dahlen] has been able to get some big hits in and he's defensively very sound, and James Black is a great penalty killer, and everybody is talking about the chemistry of our team and I don't want to change that.

"You take a guy who has been doing a good job killing penalties but doesn't score out of the lineup to throw a guy in who can score, but how do you score playing on the fourth line? And guys on the fourth line, sometimes his job is just to kill penalties and get the job done defensively. So right now I don't really want to tinker around with the kind of chemistry we have going up front."

Svejkovsky has played in just seven of the team's 18 games, recording one goal and one assist. That goal was scored in Washington's first game of the season, about seven weeks ago. Lineup decisions are being made for the present, not the future, and Svejkovsky cannot be returned to the minor leagues without clearing waivers.

"I'm essentially only using three lines and the fourth line is only spotted here and there," Wilson said. "And you have to have people who are able to be successful in that situation. Yogi just has to work hard in practice and be ready, and when he gets in there play with the passion other guys have shown with only playing five or six shifts."

News & Notes

Defensemen Sergei Gonchar (muscle strain), Alexei Tezikov (back spasms) and Jamie Huscroft (ribs) missed last night's game. Wilson said Tezikov has an outside chance to play tonight in Boston, but Gonchar and Huscroft are out. Center Mike Eagles was a healthy scratch last night. . . . Persistent rumors that center Adam Oates is being shopped around are unfounded. The Capitals are not taking offers for the player, though a deal closer to the March trade deadline still is a possibility, depending on Oates's play and the team's standing.