SUNRISE, Fla. – While the Capitals managed to eke out a 5-4 win over the Panthers here Thursday night they didn’t escape completely unscathed.
Playing in his first game after missing eight straight before the Olympic break with a sprained left ankle, Mikhail Grabovski aggravated that injury when Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad fell on his leg during his first shift.
Grabovski, 30, left the game with 7 minutes remaining in the first period and didn’t return. He was credited with three shifts and 2:20 of ice time. After the game, Grabovski was walking with a limp in the hallway outside the visitors’ dressing room at BB&T Arena.
The injury initially occurred on Jan. 24 when New Jersey Devils captain Bryce Salvador fell on Grabovski in front of the net, twisting his leg and ankle as they both fell to the ice. Grabovski didn’t skate for several days afterward as he was unable to put his foot in a skate.
But he was back on the ice before the Olympic break began and didn’t miss a workout after the team reconvened on Jan. 19. While Grabovski took part in every practice, he said earlier this week the pain wasn’t completely gone despite the improvements he made in his recovery up to that point.
“I feel little bit better. I can practice with the team, still don’t have a lot of contact but I think it’s going to be all right,” Grabovski said. “It’s was just pain, big pain when you turn. Right now it’s much better, still have pain but it’s not like before.”
Troy Brouwer said the Capitals were aware Grabovski may not have been 100 percent heading into Thursday’s game.
“We knew his status coming into the game tonight,” Brouwer said. “We knew it might be a touch and go kind of feeling thing. Obviously something happened in the game early that didn’t feel well for him and he pulled out.”
While the Capitals managed to weather the line shuffling and increased workloads without Grabovski in the lineup, they’ll likely need to recall another center from Hershey ahead of Saturday’s game in Boston. Depending on how Coach Adam Oates wants to structure the lineup, Casey Wellman or Michael Latta would seem to be the logical options.
Should Grabovski miss another significant stretch, it will make these final 22 games all the more challenging for Washington.