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What does Andre Burakovsky's injury mean for the Capitals?

What does Andre Burakovsky's injury mean for the Capitals?

Andre Burakovsky is going to be sidelined until mid-to-late March with a hand injury, Caps Coach Barry Trotz announced Friday.

The winger suffered the injury during Thursday’s 6-3 win over the Red Wings when he blocked a Brendan Smith slap shot late in the first period.  

Trotz said Burakovsky’s hand did not require surgery, though the coach declined to reveal the precise nature of the injury.  

“It’s part of the game,” Trotz said.

“You can’t control that. People get hurt in this game. We’ve been very fortunate not to have a lot of injuries. So it’ll be a good test.”

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The loss is a blow for the Capitals’ surging third line and for Burakovsky, who put up nine goals and 10 assists in the 25 games since Trotz scratched him for ineffectiveness in mid-December.

“For Andre, obviously he had started really ramping it up,” Trotz said.

“When he comes back he’s going to be fresh. He’s going to be excited. I know he’ll get back to playing the way he can.”

With Burakovsky out, the immediate plan is to insert Zach Sanford into the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Ducks, which is Washington's last game before its five-day bye week. Depending on how that game goes, it’s also possible the Caps will want to give Jakub Vrana an opportunity as Burakovsky’s long term replacement. 

Sanford was already with the Caps, having been recalled on Tuesday morning as an insurance policy with a couple of other forwards already nursing nagging ailments.

“We’re going to let Zach have that first crack at it tomorrow and we’ll go from there,” Trotz said. “We haven’t really made any long term decisions.”

Sanford added: “No one likes to see a teammate or anyone get hurt, but I think this will be big for me to hopefully step in, keep playing well and help the team keep winning.”

Burakovsky’s spot on the power play will be filled by Lars Eller, who saw some duty there in Montreal. During Friday’s practice, Eller lined up in the slot on the second unit.

“It’s too bad for Andre,” Eller said.

“We’re going to miss him but it opens the door for me. I’m going to embrace that opportunity. It’s a great opportunity for me. That’s where all players want to be. That’s the really fun stuff.”

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

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NBC Sports Washington

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.