The Washington Capitals placed star goaltender Olaf Kolzig on the injured reserve list, which will keep him out of at least two games, and juggled several spots on their 23-man roster prior to leaving yesterday on a four-game West Coast trip.

The Capitals (12-14-2) returned forward Colin Forbes to the minors, assigned defenseman Steve Eminger to the Canadian world junior championship team and recalled forwards Andreas Salomonsson and Trent Whitfield from the minors. Whitfield and Salomonsson are expected to be in the lineup for Wednesday's game at Anaheim, but Kolzig's pulled upper right thigh muscle continues to be a cause for concern.

Kolzig was on the ice briefly yesterday but left before practice. Although treatment is aiding the injury, Kolzig, Washington's best player this season, still is unable to make routine saves without feeling flashes of pain, most notably when he tries to spring up from the ice.

"I'm not 100 percent; I'm not even where I want to be," Kolzig said. "I wouldn't be able to do what I want to do on the ice, so right now it's back to square one. We'll just do more treatment and see where it is from day to day."

Kolzig could dress for Saturday's game at San Jose depending on his recovery, but the injury also could linger for weeks. Veteran backup Craig Billington and recently recalled rookie Sebastien Charpentier are both on the road trip, and Charpentier likely will start again Wednesday night. There had been hope by the coaching staff and Kolzig that Kolzig would be able practice yesterday and play Wednesday.

"I had guarded optimism and I've got a pretty good track record of healing quickly," Kolzig said. "So I was a little disappointed when I got off the ice [yesterday]. I won't lie to you, I'm disappointed, but I am realistic, too. I'm getting a little older and it maybe takes me a little more time to get back, and it's probably more important to get this injury 100 percent so I can play 90 or 95 percent of the games from Christmas on rather than come back when it's 80 percent and get tired and have it go again and miss a lot more games."

Eminger, 19, will not return until early January if he makes Canada's team -- it is all but certain he will -- and plays in the best teenage hockey tournament in the world. Eminger had played in 17 of Washington's 28 games, averaging 10 minutes of ice time with two points and a rating of minus-3.

"I think it will just be good for him to get with his peers, guys his age, hang out and represent his country," Capitals Coach Bruce Cassidy said. "It's a great experience, obviously, and we don't want to deny him that. If he was playing here on a regular basis we'd look at it more closely, but he's been in and out" of the lineup.

Eminger said: "Any time you get to represent your country, it's an honor. It will give me a chance to see if I've improved and look forward to seeing some past players you played with and against and sort of see where you stand."

Whitfield, 25, was a regular for the Capitals in 2000-2001 but has spent most of the last two seasons in the minors. With Brian Sutherby promoted from fourth-line center to second-line winger, Washington needed a gritty center for the fourth line. Salomonsson played 18 games for the Capitals after being claimed off waivers, then was assigned to the minors last week before his quick recall.

"We're just looking for a little different mix," Cassidy said. "Maybe a face-off guy with a little more edge [Whitfield]. It's an opportunity, that's it. We'll rotate some guys until they separate themselves. . . . We're trying to find better chemistry on our fourth line."

Capitals Notes: Team captain Steve Konowalchuk had a lengthy meeting with assistant coach Randy Carlyle after practice, as the coaching staff tried to take the pulse of the team. "They were just making sure everything is good with the players," Konowalchuk said. "And we talked about the same things -- turnovers and why we do it. That kind of thing. That was it." . . .

The Capitals used one of their two emergency goalie exemptions to exceed the 23-man roster for Saturday night's game by having three active goalies, and have one exemption left to use this season.

Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig has been hindered by muscle pull. "I'm not 100 percent," he said. "I'm not even where I want to be."