Eller tallied a primary assist on Dmitrij Jaskin’s goal in the first period, and then he was on the ice for two shifts in the second period before exiting the game. Second-line center Evgeny Kuznetsov double-shifted with Eller out for the rest of the game, finishing with more than 24 minutes of ice time.
If Eller can’t play Sunday, Travis Boyd is expected to center a third line with Jaskin and right wing Brett Connolly.
Eller has six goals and 16 assists through 51 games, and his absence would be especially felt on the penalty kill, where he and Tom Wilson are typically the first forwards over the boards.
“He’s getting some treatment, and we’ll see for tomorrow,” Reirden said.
In encouraging news for the Capitals, defenseman Christian Djoos seems to be nearing a return to the lineup. He hasn’t played since Dec. 11, and he underwent surgery for compartment syndrome in his left thigh. He stayed in Washington to skate while the team was off for its bye week, and he was a full participant in Saturday’s practice, which included some contact drills.
Djoos won’t play Sunday, and Reirden didn’t rule out the possibility of Djoos doing a conditioning stint in the American Hockey League before getting back in the NHL lineup.
“He’s continuing to go through exercises to make sure that he’s ready to play a game, and when that opportunity comes, we’ll go from there,” Reirden said. “We continue to deal with him everyday and look at the situation of what puts him in the best spot to come in and have a successful reentry into our lineup.”
Djoos is on long-term injured reserve, and Washington would have to clear roster and salary-cap space to activate him. He scored three goals and 11 assists in 63 games last season, and he played in all but two playoff games, skating on a third pairing beside veteran Brooks Orpik. The Capitals are 10-8-3 in the 21 games Djoos has missed.
“He was a very important player for us last year,” Reirden said. “I think he’s got a big upside to continue to grow in this game. He adds something we don’t have in terms of that ability to move the puck and has that presence to break pucks out clean and really help generate some offense with his puck movement and in-zone and supporting the rush.
"He’s an important asset for us that we need to make sure we handle properly. He’s still young in his career in terms of dealing with an injury like this, so it’s important that we go through all of the proper protocol and steps to make sure that when he comes back, he is ready to pick up right where he left off.”