Capitals winger Andre Burakovsky had surgery to repair his fractured left thumb on Tuesday afternoon, the team said in a statement.
Burakovsky, who was injured late in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Panthers, is expected to be sidelined six to eight weeks as a result, dealing the scuffling Caps a significant blow. Washington is 4-4-1 and has been limited to two or fewer goals in three of its last four games.
It’s also a big blow for Burakovsky, who missed 15 games last season with a broken right hand. The 22-year-old winger was aiming to break out after signing a two-year, $6 million extension this summer.
Over the past two seasons, the Caps had ranked among the NHL’s healthiest teams. That has not been the case this season, with No. 1 defenseman Matt Niskanen out with an upper body injury and checking line forward Tyler Graovac sidelined, also with an upper body injury.
And now this.
“It's hard,” T.J. Oshie said before the news of Burakovsky's surgery had been announced. “We've been pretty lucky here the last couple years. We've had a couple injuries but for the most part we've been staying pretty healthy. It happens every once in a while, you kinda get the injury bug a little bit. It’s a little bit of adversity, it’s roles changing a little bit. Some guys are going to get a lot more responsibility.”
Burakovsky's injury happened in the waning minutes of Saturday game when he got hooked behind the net. He immediately took his glove off and began flexing his injured hand.
Although Burakovsky was examined after the contest, the full extent of the injury was not known until he visited a hand specialist on Tuesday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Coach Barry Trotz lamented the fact that the injury occurred—again—just as Burakovksy appeared to be finding his game. Against Detroit on Friday, he scored his first goal of the season and recorded a clutch primary assist to help the Caps secure a 4-3 overtime victory.
“He’s just finally broke through, got a goal and we were hoping that would get him some traction,” Trotz said. “And then he got hurt. That was sorta like last year.”
Trotz added: “It seems he’s got that gift of finally getting some traction and then getting hurt. We’ll see what the specialist says and go from there.”
The Caps were hoping that Burakovsky could produce 20-25 goals this season to help offset all of the goals that left the team via free agency over the summer. Instead, one of their most promising young forwards now will be sidelined until early to mid December.
On Tuesday morning, Burakovsky was placed on injured reserve, clearing the way for the team to recall Chandler Stephenson, who joined the team for its road trip to Western Canada. Based on practice rushes, Stephenson will be the extra forward when the Caps play at Vancouver on Thursday night.