(Nick Wass/Associated Press)


Updated 11:15 p.m.: Winger Martin Erat was injured in the first period of the Capitals’ game Saturday night at the Florida Panthers and did not return to the contest.

With 5 minutes 23 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Erat pursued the puck in the offensive zone when he was driven into the boards by Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Erat’s head slammed into the boards and his left leg and foot were contorted upon impact.  It is tough to determine the extent of the 31-year-old winger’s injuries but at least he appeared to injure his left leg, which was crushed into the boards.

Erat will travel back to Washington with the team, according to a Capitals spokesman. The team would only describe Erat’s injury as lower-body, and when asked if the veteran winger would miss considerable time Coach Adam Oates said he wasn’t sure.

“Really hard to tell right now,” Oates said. Washington head athletic trainer Greg Smith “didn’t think it was that bad. We’ll see in the morning.”

Erat crumpled to the ice and appeared a little woozy as he was helped to the bench by Alex Ovechkin. Unable to put weight on his left foot, Erat needed to be carried down the tunnel to the Capitals dressing room by team trainers and equipment staff.

Gudbranson received a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct for the hit. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety reviews all plays around the league but whether Gudbranson will receive any supplemental discipline is uncertain.

“That’s a pretty dangerous play,” Oates said.

The injury to Erat, who the Capitals acquired from Nashville prior to the trade deadline, is another blow to Washington’s forward depth. Brooks Laich missed Saturday’s game after suffering what the team will only describe as a lower-body injury Thursday against the Islanders.

“I hope he’s okay,” Alex Ovechkin said of Erat. “It’s hard, you can see how he played when he was out there he controlled the puck — he’s great. It’s hard.”