Peter Bondra, the Washington Capitals' leading scorer, did not skate with the team this morning and missed tonight's game against the Atlanta Thrashers with a sore left knee. Bondra aggravated the injury Tuesday night, leaving that game after one period, and has not skated since. He was in his fourth game back after undergoing minor arthroscopic surgery Dec. 5.

Bondra was walking with a limp today and said he could feel pain in the knee, but believed he would be skating soon, perhaps even Friday. Coach Ron Wilson said there is no set timetable for Bondra's return to the ice.

"It definitely feels better than it did [Wednesday], but it still doesn't feel right," Bondra said. "I'm hoping that [Friday] it feels better and maybe I can skate then. I still feel it, but I talked to the doctor and he said it will get better everyday and I hope to be back soon."

Bondra leads the team with 13 goals; the Capitals are the only team in the NHL with just one player with double-digit goal totals. Center Andrei Nikolishin, who did not practice this week while nursing a sore groin, skated this morning and played tonight. Winger Yogi Svejkovsky returned to the lineup, playing on a line with Nikolishin and Jeff Toms. Center Mike Eagles was a healthy scratch.

One Down, Two to Go

The Capitals have two games remaining in their unusual three-game series with the Thrashers. The games are consecutive--tonight, Saturday and next Wednesday--a scheduling phenomenon some in the NHL office believe has not occurred since the 1984-85 season, when the Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames had such a series of games. While three games against an expansion team could be the perfect recipe to get the Capitals on their first extended winning streak, it is far from certain.

The Thrashers entered the series tied with the New York Islanders for the fewest wins in the NHL, but there are no sure things. It's difficult to beat any team three straight games, even an expansion team. However, Wilson said it is imperative his team wins at least two of the games and earns a point in the other.

"The thing that stinks about this is everybody expects us to beat Atlanta three in a row because we're above them in the standings and they're an expansion team," Wilson said. "But it's tough to maintain the same focus and intensity for three in a row. I'm a little scared because we beat them 4-0 [in their previous meeting] and we had our way with them in that game and we may go in there and drop our guard a little bit and we can't do that."

CAPTION: Capitals' Peter Bondra, right, checked here by Blackhawks' Bryan McCabe Monday, aggravated his knee but thinks he will be skating again soon.