LAS VEGAS—The Capitals weren’t offering up much about Evgeny Kuznetsov after their Game 2 victory here Wednesday night other than to say that they did not like the hit that knocked the star center from the contest.
“The hit on Kuzy, we thought was high, and the player didn’t return,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “That was one thing that galvanized us.”
Kuznetsov, the leading scorer in the playoffs with 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists), left the game with about five minutes remaining in the first period after absorbing a huge hit from Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb along the boards.
During the game, the Caps announced that Kuznetsov was doubtful to return due to an upper body injury. He did not return, of course, and now everyone’s left to wonder whether he’ll play in Game 3 on Saturday night in Washington.
If he misses any time at all, that figures to be a massive setback for a Caps team that just earned its first ever win in the Stanley Cup Final (1-5).
Trotz declined to provide a more detailed update on Kuznetsov’s status in his postgame press conference. He did, however, say that the hit had a “galvanizing” effect on the bench.
“You lose one of your top players on what we consider a questionable hit,” he said. “The league will look at it. But your bench kind of rallies around it.”
With Kuznetsov out, third line center Lars Eller (one goal, two primary assists) moved up, just as he did when Nicklas Backstrom was sidelined earlier in the playoffs. On Wednesday, Eller also replaced Kuznetsov on the first unit power play and had a beautiful assist on Alex Ovechkin's tally.
Eller said he’s not sure if Kuznetsov will be able to play Saturday but he added that he’ll be ready to step in again if called upon.
The Caps are off Thursday as they make their way back to Washington. Trotz, however, is scheduled to hold a conference call with reporters so it’s possible more information on Kuznetsov will be available at that time.
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