The Capitals had a welcome sight at Saturday’s practice as Lars Eller was dressed in a full-contact jersey for the first time since the team’s west coast road trip and his quarantine stint.
He was placed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols on Nov. 16 and hasn’t played since the win over the Penguins on Nov. 14, two weeks from Sunday’s game against the Hurricanes. He tested positive with the team in Anaheim and was forced to quarantine for 10 days due to local regulations before he returned to the area.
Eller, who is vaccinated, missed six games since his positive test. He’s hopeful to play in the team’s game Sunday in Carolina, or at least in the team's game against the Panthers on Tuesday.
“No one else on the team got it, nobody in my house got it,” Eller said. “I don't know, I have no idea where I got it from. I mean, we're trying to count like most likely probably somewhere on that road trip in Detroit and Columbus. But I've really only been around my teammates and nothing else. So it's really odd. I've just been extremely unlucky, I guess."
Eller said he was symptomatic for the first three days of isolation and didn’t have major symptoms. He felt like he had a mild fever or cold for about three days, but said he never had a high fever or breathing problems.
Once he began to feel better, he was able to get a stationary bike and some dumbbells into his hotel room to stay as active as he could. He took another test midway through his quarantine and the results still came back positive.
“I try to find a routine, workouts in the morning and afternoons were a lot of movies and shows,” Eller said. “And sometimes I would do a little bit of work again late afternoon before dinner and another movie and another show and reading, listening. All kinds of things. Try a little bit of everything, try to stay sane."
In quarantine, he read Mark Messier’s book “No One Wins Alone” and watched “Succession” on HBO.
“It's still challenging because you feel like you're mostly wasting time when you should be somewhere else, right?” Eller said. “I hope I don't have to do it again anytime soon."
Eller, who has one goal and seven assists in 15 games this season, skated on the second line at Saturday’s practice with Tom Wilson and a rotating duo of Connor McMichael and Daniel Sprong. If he enters the lineup against the Hurricanes on Sunday or the Panthers on Tuesday, that figures to be the line he’ll play on.
The Capitals are still without T.J. Oshie, Anthony Mantha and Justin Schultz, none of whom were at practice Saturday. Conor Sheary and Nicklas Backstrom took part donning non-contact jerseys.
Meaning if the Capitals are able to get Eller back in the lineup, they’ll certainly welcome the addition.
“I feel my lungs have been feeling fine, but the game is of course a different level,” Eller said. “So maybe it takes a game or two to find, you know, that touch again. But it's mostly the timing. I'm not too worried about my legs and lungs, it's mostly getting your head back to that speed again after not doing anything on the ice for a while."