Update 7:25 p.m.: An already turbulent offseason for the Washington Capitals took another dramatic turn Sunday when star winger Alex Ovechkin suffered an apparent injury to his right leg while playing for Russia in the IIHF World Championships in Minsk, Belarus.
The exact nature and severity of Ovechkin’s injury is unknown after he was sent flying by an open-ice hip check from Germany’s Marcus Kink in the third period of a preliminary-round game.
According to reports out of Belarus from the Canadian Press and Russia’s Sport Express, Ovechkin was unable to stand on his own and didn’t put any weight on his right leg as he was helped off the ice. Russian Coach Oleg Znarok told reporters in Belarus after the game that Ovechkin had been taken to a local hospital for an MRI exam.
“We can not share any information because it’s not known yet,” Znarok told reporters through an interpreter. “It’s going to be released later.”
When Ovechkin returned to the team hotel from the hospital he was limping but able to walk, according to Slava Malamud of Sport Express, who added that there was more optimism about the winger’s health. A Russian team doctor told Malamud that Ovechkin’s condition is “better than we thought.” Check out a video of Ovechkin returning to his hotel in Minsk via Alena Shilova of RIA Novosti here.
Ovechkin, who is expected to miss Russia’s next game in the tournament Tuesday at the least, also tried to assuage concerns by posting a thumbs-up selfie on Instagram with the caption “Everything’s okay. Congrats on the win, everyone!!” in Russian.
Reached by e-mail Sunday, Ovechkin’s IMG representative David Abrutyn declined to comment before more information about the injury was available. The Capitals released a statement saying that their medical staff is working with the Russian national team to stay up to date on Ovechkin’s status.
With so few details available about the extent of Ovechkin’s injury, it’s impossible to gauge how much time he could miss. But there’s no question that if the 28-year-old is sidelined for any significant length of time it will have a profound impact on the Capitals.
Washington is already in the midst of a search for a new general manager and new coach after firing George McPhee and Adam Oates in late April when the team failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Regardless who is hired to fill those roles and what changes may come to the roster under a new regime, Ovechkin remains the centerpiece of the Capitals’ efforts to chase the Stanley Cup, and an injury scare for the face of the franchise is the last thing Washington needs.
Capitals prospect and German goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who played in Sunday’s game during which Ovechkin was injured, expressed concern for his NHL teammate.
“I hope nothing is wrong with him. I hope he is fine,” Grubauer told the Canadian Press. “You never want to see that. We need him in Washington. He had 51 goals this year. He is one of the best players in the world, so we need him up in Washington.”
Here’s the video of the hit.