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Lars Eller misses Caps’ practice with illness, questionable to play against Maple Leafs

Lars Eller missed practice Monday due to illness. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

Washington Capitals center Lars Eller missed Monday’s practice with an illness and Coach Barry Trotz said he doesn’t know if Eller will be available for Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Eller was “under-the-weather” when he arrived to the team’s practice facility Monday morning.

“We sent him home so that he could get better and he doesn’t get anybody else sick,” Trotz said. “I’ll have to just wait for a trainer’s report. … I’m sure he’s not feeling very good right now because it’s only been a few hours. We’ll see where the energy level is and all that. If he’s feeling okay, then he’ll want to play. We’ll just see where his energy level is at.”

About the time Caps center Lars Eller worked out with Terrell Owens for a week …

Eller centers Washington’s third line with wingers Brett Connolly and Tom Wilson, and on Monday, Tyler Graovac took rushes as the center on that line. Graovac has been a healthy scratch for the past two games, and he played fewer than six minutes the last time he was in the lineup, against Pittsburgh.

Eller has two assists for the Capitals in the past six games, playing an average of 14:24 as he is one of Washington’s top penalty-killing forwards. He’s also won 61.7 percent of his faceoffs to start the season.

Backstrom gets a star

Nicklas Backstrom was named the NHL’s third star of the week after he scored three goals with six assists in four games. Backstrom’s 11 points this season are tied with Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov for the most in the NHL this season.

“I think Nick has just been all-business,” Trotz said. “He’s playing very well. He’s been our best player, no question. He’s been our best player with balance in his game. I mean, we’ve got four guys in the top six in scoring in the National Hockey League — I know we’ve played a game more than probably most teams — so we’re going to be able to score. We’ve just got to keep the puck out of our own end. We’re trading way too many chances, but Nick’s balance in his game is really good, and that’s what makes him one of the best two-way centermen in the National Hockey League.”

Good things come to pass for Nicklas Backstrom, Caps in 5-2 win over Devils

Hershey gets a new netminder

Trotz gave an update on the organizational goaltending depth with prospects Vitek Vanecek and Pheonix Copley both out with “lower-body” injuries in the American Hockey League. That makes Parker Milner the next in line. The impact from the parent club lens: Milner lacks an NHL deal, so Washington doesn’t have many options if Braden Holtby or Philipp Grubauer were to get hurt.

Copley and Vanecek are both considered “week-to-week,” and the hope is that they’ll be back in net by the end of the month.

Chorney getting another shot

Defenseman Taylor Chorney has been a healthy scratch for the past three games after Trotz said Chorney had a “rough patch” while playing on his off side as the right defenseman. It seems Chorney will draw back into the lineup on Tuesday night with Washington looking to make some changes following the 8-2 drubbing in Philadelphia on Saturday. Aaron Ness is expected to be scratched for the first time this season.

Matt Niskanen injury prompts close look at prospects, could spark trade talk

Chorney was paired with Dmitry Orlov in practice Monday, but the team will likely continue mixing and matching its defense duos depending on situation and matchups. This will be Washington’s second game without top defenseman Matt Niskanen, who will be out until at least Nov. 7 with an injured hand.

“They’re going to be shuffled from now until we get people back,” Trotz said. “There [will be] pairs for practice and then they’ll be pairs for parts of games. It’ll be a little situational.”

Here’s what the lineup could look like on Tuesday night against Toronto with Eller’s status still unclear:

Andre Burakovsky-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Jakub Vrana
Brett Connolly-Tyler Graovac-Tom Wilson
Alex Chiasson-Jay Beagle-Devante Smith-Pelly
Scratches: Nathan Walker, Lars Eller (sick)

Christian Djoos-John Carlson
Brooks Orpik-Madison Bowey
Dmitry Orlov-Taylor Chorney
Scratch: Aaron Ness

Braden Holtby (starter)
Philipp Grubauer

Injured reserve
Matt Niskanen

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