Capitals forward Brett Connolly wasn’t at practice Tuesday, Washington’s first after a three-game road trip through Western Canada. Connolly was placed in the concussion protocol during the team’s game in Vancouver, and it’s unclear if he’ll play against the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
“He’s still sort of day-to-day, and we’ll see where he is,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “He didn’t skate today, so we’ll see where he is tomorrow. I don’t know if he’ll be able to skate or not. I’ll wait for my trainers to give me all of the info.”
Connolly, who scored a career-high 15 goals last year, is one of four injured Capitals players. Andre Burakovsky had surgery on his left thumb last week, and he’s expected to be out for six to eight weeks. Trotz said he doesn’t know when forward Tyler Graovac might start skating with the team again, out for the past five games with an undisclosed “upper-body” injury.
Connolly and Burakovsky were both playing on the third line with center Lars Eller when they got hurt, and Trotz has had to get creative with his forward combinations without them, promoting Devante Smith-Pelly into the top-six forward corps. The Capitals have had Chandler Stephenson playing on the third line and Anthony Peluso has played the past two games on Washington’s fourth line. Peluso has logged less than five minutes of ice time in each game.
Top defenseman Matt Niskanen injured his left hand on Oct. 13, and he’s been skating with the team’s strength and conditioning coach before practices. Because he’s on long-term injured reserve, Niskanen isn’t eligible to play again until Nov. 7, but that seems like an optimistic return date considering he hasn’t joined the team in a practice yet. Washington’s defense has been hurting without him, allowing an average of 33.6 shots against in the seven games he’s missed.
“I know he’s skating every day because he was here this morning skating,” Trotz said. “I think that will really be the doctors assessing it. They’ll probably take a few more pictures [of his injury] and go from there.”
The Capitals were the healthiest team in the league last season with just 49 man-games lost to injury.
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