COLUMBUS, Ohio — Rookie forward Andre Burakovsky boarded a plane Friday morning from Columbus International Airport, bound for Pennsylvania, where he would soon join the Hershey Bears for their two weekend games against Lehigh Valley and Springfield. Come Sunday, however, the 19-year-old will rejoin the Washington Capitals, Coach Barry Trotz announced.
“I just need him to play,” Trotz said. “The plan is for him to play two games in Hershey, and then he’ll come back and join us. I just need him playing.”
The Capitals reassigned Burakovsky after scratching him for the fifth time in six games, so he could play top-six minutes with the Bears rather than sit in the press box again when the team visited New Jersey on Saturday.
Trotz also offered further explanation for sending Burakovsky to Hershey, rather than loaning him to Team Sweden for the upcoming World Junior Championships. Basically, everything stems from the fear that with a tough upcoming stretch against the top three Metropolitan Division teams — all on the road — someone might get hurt.
“One of the reasons we’re not sending him to the World Junior is he’s right now, we sort of have him as our 13th forward,” Trotz said. “But at the same time, we’ve got some people that are hurt, there’s mumps going around, there’s a lot of reasons where you don’t want to commit to having him go, then you need him down the road, not be able to get him. It wouldn’t be fair to another kid who could get named to the team, then we have to pull him back from there. Once he goes there, you can’t [retrieve] him until [Jan.] 6, I believe. That was one of our concerns. We’ve got a lot of games in the next two weeks.”
Asked whether Burakovsky could have gained something from participating in the under-20 tournament, where he would almost certainly be among the best players on one of the top teams, Trotz said it had little to do with the event itself.
“That’s such a great tournament, I think it wouldn’t hurt,” Trotz said. “It wouldn’t hurt at all. It’s going to be a real good event in Toronto and Montreal, where it’s being held. But we consider him an NHL player. He’s going to be a Washington Capital for a long time. Right now he’s played 25 or 26 NHL games and he’s going to play a lot more before the end of the year. We’re just keeping him playing. He’s a young guy. He’s probably never sat out in his life and now he’s sitting out. It’s probably an adjustment for him.”
Unless an injury occurs at Saturday’s morning skate, Trotz said, the Capitals will face the Devils with 12 healthy forwards. In the meantime, via Russian Machine, the folks at Team Sweden are not pleased at this latest development.
Nothing further on Carlson’s hit
Defenseman John Carlson will receive no further discipline from the NHL after his hit on Columbus’ Ryan Johansen, which earned a two-minute minor penalty Thursday.
After absorbing a hard, but legal, check from forward Nick Foligno, Carlson got up and, as he moved down the ice, hit Johansen in the head with his glove from behind.
“I’ve been around John Carlson for a few months here, and I don’t think there’s anything malicious there,” Trotz said during his postgame news conference. “There’s a little bit of a glancing blow with the glove. That’s not his DNA. If you know Carly, that would be way out of character for him.”
Had the NHL decided to suspend Carlson, the 24-year-old’s consecutive games streak, which currently stands at 327, would have been in jeopardy.
At 11:59 p.m., Friday night, the NHL’s holiday roster freeze will begin, halting all waivers, trades and loans until 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 28. General manager Brian MacLellan has made no secret out of his exploration for possible trade pieces, but the Capitals are not expected to make a move before the freeze begins. However, according to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, teams can recall players during the freeze, paving the way for Burakovsky’s return. … At practice, the forward lines and defensive pairings remained the same. … According to Bears media relations director Scott Stuccio, forward Aaron Volpatti — currently on conditioning loan to the AHL — will be available in Lehigh Valley.