Washington Capitals winger Andre Burakovsky will not travel with the team to Columbus, Ohio, meaning he is out for at least the next two games with what the team is calling an upper-body injury.
“He’s going to miss some time here,” Coach Barry Trotz said Monday.
Burakovsky was injured on a hit from Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner in the first period Sunday night, and he played just five shifts and 2:12 overall. The Capitals went on to lose in overtime for the second straight game, and they trail the Blue Jackets 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.
The loss is a blow for a Washington team already low on top-six forward talent. Burakovsky finished the regular season with three goals and three assists in his last eight games, playing well down the stretch after his season got off to a miserable start. He missed 20 games earlier in the year with a broken thumb. In what was a disappointing fourth NHL season, he finished with 12 goals and 13 assists in 56 games.
Burakovsky had been skating on the second line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. The injury to Burakovsky reopens the door for rookie winger Jakub Vrana, who was a healthy scratch Sunday after playing in Thursday’s Game 1 loss.
“For the player, it’s frustrating,” Trotz said. “Our mentality is the next guy up. The next guy up will be Jakub Vrana. For Andre, I feel bad for Andre. … Every time he’s played very, very well, he’s had some injuries. It’s a setback, but he’ll come back strong.”
Vrana had 13 goals and 14 assists in 73 regular season games. He had the primary assist on Devante Smith-Pelly’s goal in Game 1, but he also had a pair of turnovers in his playoff debut and finished with less than seven minutes of ice time. With center Jay Beagle returning to the lineup Sunday, Trotz had to push one forward out, and he chose the 22-year-old skilled Czech, the organization’s first-round pick in 2014.
But Vrana’s speed and offensive instincts are most comparable to Burakovsky’s, which is why he’s the natural choice to draw back into the lineup. It’s unclear whether Vrana will take Burakovsky’s place beside Backstrom and Oshie, or whether he’ll return to the third line next to center Lars Eller.
“It was his first playoff game, and there was a lot of jitters in his game,” Trotz said of Vrana. “I know you have to go through that the first game, in terms of just the game was a little overwhelming when we as a staff looked at that. But Jake’s going to be fine. He’s going to fill that hole exactly how Burky’s done.”
More Capitals and Stanley Cup playoff coverage: