Through the first 16 games this season, the Capitals had pretty much avoided injuries. Some bumps and bruises here and there, to be sure, but nothing serious enough to force a player out of the lineup.
It caught up to them on Friday.
Lars Eller, T.J. Oshie and Andre Burakovsky each left the Capitals’ eventual 1-0 win over the Red Wings in the first period, leaving the home team with just three forward lines for the balance of the contest.
Coach Barry Trotz said all three players were suffering from upper body ailments and would be reevaluated Saturday morning. Trotz also hinted at the possibility of recalling a player from minor league Hershey—just in case.
“Nope, I can’t,” Trotz cracked, asked if he could provide an update on the injured players. “They are going to be evaluated. We’ll have a better idea tomorrow.”
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Eller was the first to go down. It’s unclear how he got hurt, but he did get hit hard by Tyler Bertuzzi along the boards on his first shift. Eller played only 45 seconds.
A few minutes later, Oshie laid into Riley Sheahan in open ice but ended up taking the brunt of the blow. Oshie, arguably the Capitals' best player to this point in the season, went to the bench briefly before retiring to the dressing room.
Burakovsky, meantime, left the game after being spotted on the bench in obvious discomfort. A review of his final shift did not reveal anything obvious.
Trotz wouldn't commit to recalling a player from the Bears, but it sure sounded likely. There are several deserving candidates in Hershey, but, as always, the Caps also must weigh several factors, such as the type of player that needs to be replaced. Is it a winger? A center? Top six, etc. And that might not be known until the injured players are reexamined.
“I’m probably going to bring one guy in—just in case,” Trotz said. “But we won’t make that decision until tomorrow. That’s sorta the idea. There’s some unknown and we have a noon game [vs. Columbus on Sunday]. …We’ll probably be safe, and that person will probably be in and out for the day.”
Trotz said he was surprised that his team had managed to avoid injuries for more than a month, particularly since the Capitals sent nine players to the World Cup of Hockey prior to the season.
“We were getting past that stage in the season where we hitting that first 20 games,” he said. “Then you have a lot of World Cuppers, they are already getting into the 30s here because guys played eight, nine games at the World Cup. Those were like playoff games, so there’s a lot of wear and tear on your top players in this league.”
Trotz also acknowledged discussing his team’s good fortune earlier in the day—a no-no in the superstitious world of pro hockey.
“It was funny, I got a flu shot today with one of our doctors and I said, ‘Knock on wood, we haven’t had any injuries,’” Trotz said. “We were talking about that and how fortunate that was. And I should have just kept my mouth shut.”
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