The Capitals already expected to be shorthanded for Friday’s contest against the Winnipeg Jets, but their roster took another hit in the hours leading up to the game when center Nicklas Backstrom landed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
Right winger Brett Leason and goalie Zach Fucale were recalled from the Hershey Bears on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
Washington already placed center Evgeny Kuznetsov in COVID protocol Wednesday and were forced to cross the border into Canada for tonight's game without center Nic Dowd and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk. Those players returned from their own COVID isolation periods this week but didn’t satisfy Canada’s stricter border entry requirements in time.
Right winger Garnet Hathaway has been in protocol since Dec. 6 and didn’t travel with the team to Chicago for its game on Wednesday or to Winnipeg. Washington remained in Chicago to practice Thursday after an overtime loss to the Blackhawks.
In addition, right winger Tom Wilson (upper-body injury) is questionable to play against the Jets, who are dealing with drama of a different sort after coach Paul Maurice abruptly resigned Friday morning.
Backstrom was sidelined just two days after making his season debut in his return from offseason hip surgery. The 34-year-old alternate captain logged 18 minutes of ice time against the Blackhawks. He started the game on the second line but took several shifts with Alex Ovechkin and provided an assist on one of his goals.
The Capitals’ roster additions come in the form of two rookies who have already suited up for Washington this season. Leason was sent down to the AHL on Wednesday to make room on the roster for Backstrom, but he was immediately recalled a day later. He’s tallied two goals and two assists in 20 games.
Fucale has made one career NHL start and recorded a shutout against the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 11.