Washington Capitals center Jan Bulis's rib injury has opened up a lineup spot for talented youngster Yogi Svejkovsky, but there are no assurances the 23-year-old will play regularly. Svejkovsky got off to a slow start and was injured, then was a healthy scratch for three straight games. He has played in just nine of Washington's first 20 games.

Svejkovsky was hoping for a breakout season, and that's still his ambition. But with the Capitals playing solid hockey this month, Coach Ron Wilson has been staying with the lineup he used during Svejkovsky's absence. The winger missed seven games over two weeks with a separated shoulder and had played just once since Oct. 29 entering tonight's game against the Buffalo Sabres. Svejkovsky joined Ulf Dahlen (who made his debut at center) and James Black on the fourth line.

"I'm excited to play again," Svejkovsky said. "Every time when you can play you're excited. There is nothing worse than being hurt and watching guys play. Then you come back and the team is playing good, and my shoulder probably felt a little better when I get the extra week that I don't play. So you feel like you don't have to worry about the injury anymore and I'm excited to play.

"You've got to prove it every day to play. You've got to have pride. I've got pride. I think I should be in there every night if I play good. Sometimes if [you] don't play good you have to look at yourself. You can't say coach doesn't like me or anything like that. I try to always look at myself. If I deserve to play, I think I'm going to be in there."

Svejkovsky has one goal (scored on opening night) and two points this season. Dahlen was the only forward without a goal excluding Mike Eagles (who has played just four games) before scoring tonight against Buffalo. Dahlen, who played his 700th NHL game tonight (14th this season), had not scored an NHL goal since the 1996-97 season (he spent the past two seasons playing in Sweden).

Time for Diving Lessons?

The Capitals have the NHL's worst ratio of penalty kills to power plays. Through 20 games, the Capitals had faced 88 short-handed situations and had just 67 power plays of their own--second fewest in the league. The Capitals are not an overly physical team and don't fight much, which has the coaches wondering how the team acquires so many more penalties than power plays.

"I hate to say this, but maybe we just don't take enough dives," Wilson said. "We battle hard to get to the net and we don't go down, and that's part of it. Maybe we should just go down once in a while. I'd hate to ever think I have to teach us to take more dives. I'm disgusted when guys go down easy, but there are situations in games that aren't being called and it's frustrating to have a team that's not really a physical team to be minus-19." . . . Wilson said defenseman Sergei Gonchar (muscle strain) might be able to play Friday. Defensemen Joe Reekie (foot) and Jamie Huscroft (ribs) also missed tonight's game. It's likely when Gonchar and Reekie return that Huscroft and Nolan Baumgartner will be returned to Portland.