“There’s a protocol the NHL has on injuries, and we’ll follow the protocol to a tee,” Trotz said. “That’s why we can’t give you an answer right now.”
Niskanen didn’t travel to Buffalo on Friday night, missing the game against the Sabres. It marked the first game he wasn’t in the lineup since he signed with Washington before the 2014-15 season. On Saturday afternoon in practice, Niskanen wasn’t limited, participating in contact drills. He also practiced on the second power-play unit, but in rushes, he was an extra defenseman. Call-up defenseman Aaron Ness also still remains with the team.
“I just wanted to join the group today, and I was cleared to do that,” Niskanen said. “I needed a little bit of extra work because I wasn’t on the ice for a few days. I tested a few things out. I thought it went well so far.”
Niskanen, who has nine assists, is an all-situations defenseman who has averaged 22:39 playing a shutdown rule at even strength with additional penalty-kill and power-play responsibilities. Wednesday night was his first game paired with Dmitry Orlov from the start, but he was boarded by Boston’s Patrice Bergeron late in the first period.
Niskanen said he thought he was close to coming back in that game, but then the team decided to hold him out for the remainder of it as a precaution. Bergeron reached out to him with a text message on Wednesday night after the game.
“I have a lot of respect for him as a player,” Niskanen said. “And I don’t think it was that bad of a hit, to be honest. I didn’t think it was live, and even watching it, I could see where that could happen. It was just one of those where I lost my balance the wrong distance from the boards. If I’m two feet closer to the boards, nothing happens. If I’m two feet further away, nothing happens. Those kinds of things happen, and he’s not a vicious player or anything. I appreciated him reaching out. That was a classy thing of him to do. He didn’t have to do that.”