After a brief conversation, Ovechkin retreated into the locker room. He did not return and, because he did not participate in practice, was not available to comment.
“He was just seeing if there was any pain and he had a little bit, so I just said go,” Trotz said later. “He’s probably questionable for tomorrow. But his injury should come around fairly quickly.”
Ovechkin suffered the injury Tuesday in Columbus, missed Thursday’s morning skate and ruled himself out for that night’s game before warm-ups began. Rookie Andre Burakovsky performed well in his stead, skating beside fellow Swedes Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson, but the Capitals lost in regulation for just the second time this season after scoring first.
With cellar-dweller Buffalo coming to Verizon Center on Saturday, and three full days between games after, Trotz said “there’s a temptation” to shelve Ovechkin against the Sabres and let him rest for next Wednesday’s critical Metropolitan Division matchup against the playoff-bound New York Rangers.
“But it’s not a major injury,” Trotz said. “It’s a minor. It’s more, if he can do what he needs to do and be able to perform the way he needs to perform without it bothering him.”
It was the first time Ovechkin sat since Jan. 2014, one of just 26 missed games in his career. The Capitals are 13-11-2 all-time without Ovechkin, his initial thought at the total number was, “Really? That’s it?”
“He doesn’t miss very much time,” Trotz said. “It’s amazing because he does go against the top and heaviest people in the league and he doesn’t play an easy game. He plays a hard game. It is quite surprising. It’s a genetic gift, I guess.”
Given Ovechkin’s uncertain status, the Capitals kept Burakovsky around, after indicating plans to return him to the American Hockey League if Ovechkin had gotten healthy. The top line – “Tre Kronor,” as Trotz called them, a reference to the Swedish national emblem meaning “Three Crowns” – produced several scoring chances against the Wild, including two iron bars Johansson struck.
“They’re good,” Trotz said. “They had a lot of chances. I said last night, even JoJo, he hit a crossbar, hit a post, Burt had a good look, they all had pretty good looks. Backie had a real good look of the rush. They move the puck really well, they skated well, they were pretty engaged, so they were good.”
>>Defenseman Brooks Orpik also received a maintenance day, leaving the Capitals practicing with five active defenseman and Dmitry Orlov (wrist), but Trotz said the veteran should face the Sabres.
“If he wasn’t, we’d be calling someone up,” Trotz said.
>> Forward Michael Latta, meanwhile, missed his second straight day with an upper-body injury incurred against the Blue Jackets, on a hard check from behind by forward Jared Boll. Trotz said there was no concern about structural damage in the injured area, roughly around Latta’s left shoulder, and that the rookie could return after the weekend.
“I think he’ll be back sometime next week,” Trotz said. “I don’t know if he’ll be back the first game. We’ll just see how it goes.”