The Washington Capitals will play the first of eight preseason games Sept. 16 at Carolina and make their debut at MCI Center against the Buffalo Sabres five days later.

The Capitals will play the Hurricanes once, Buffalo and Philadelphia twice each and Pittsburgh three times.

The Capitals will host the Penguins, who drafted junior phenom Sidney Crosby first overall in last week's entry draft, on Sept. 30.

Washington will wrap up its preseason schedule Oct. 2 in Pittsburgh, then open the regular season three days later against Columbus at MCI. . . .

The Russian hockey federation refused to sign the player transfer agreement between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation, a move the sport's governing body said could jeopardize the NHL's participation at the 2006 Olympics.

The Russians -- the only European federation to reject the deal between the IIHF and the NHL -- didn't sign because their clubs unanimously rejected it at a meeting on Monday.

"We do not yet consider the matter closed," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Associated Press. "We are hopeful to be able to sit down with the Russian federation in the next several days to discuss whatever concerns they might have in entering into a new agreement."

The new agreement increases the amount of compensation that the NHL pays to European federations in exchange for signing players. But the Russians want to negotiate their own transfer deals directly with NHL clubs so they can get more money, IIHF spokesman Szymon Szemberg said.

* TRACK AND FIELD: The sport's governing body will consider lifetime bans for first-time steroid offenders, changes to the false-start rule and tougher regulations for nationality switches.

The issues will come up for a vote today and tomorrow when the International Association of Athletics Federations meets in Helsinki before Saturday's start of the world championships.

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports