The Capitals’ following two games, scheduled for Thursday and Saturday at the Buffalo Sabres, were postponed Monday because of the Sabres’ coronavirus outbreak. Nine Buffalo players were on the covid-19 list as of Monday afternoon, and Coach Ralph Krueger has tested positive.
Kuznetsov, who revealed Monday that he experienced symptoms, is considered day-to-day, Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette said. The center took line rushes with the fourth line during practice and took reps on the second power-play unit. Samsonov, who is also considered day-to-day but may need additional time before he is game-ready, also practiced and was on the ice for about an hour and 40 minutes.
“I’m feeling better every day,” Kuznetsov said. “It’s nice to be back on the ice with the guys. It’s been a long time without skating, so I’ve been missing it a little bit. … I’m just happy I’m alive today, and [being] able to practice with the team is just a big step for me.”
After Samsonov’s positive test, contact tracing revealed the goaltender had spent time with Kuznetsov, Ovechkin and Orlov in a Pittsburgh hotel room during the Capitals’ season-opening road trip. Those gatherings violated the NHL’s coronavirus protocols, and the league fined the Capitals $100,000.
Kuznetsov, Ovechkin and Orlov were deemed high-risk close contacts to Samsonov and were required to spend at least 10 days in quarantine. Ovechkin and Orlov were cleared to return Jan. 30 once the 10 days were up, but Kuznetsov and Samsonov needed additional time.
“It’s definitely not fun, and it’s not easy days,” Kuznetsov said Monday when asked how bad his symptoms were. “Now I understand people who have symptoms or not symptoms, whatever. It’s just tough days, you know? But I’m feeling good now.”
“I’m from Russia,” he quipped, “and there is not a lot that can scare me.”
Samsonov also confirmed Monday, through an interpreter, that he had a few difficult days. He had trouble breathing and walking and said there were a few days when he felt “pretty sick.”
“It’s really up to me how I progress,” Samsonov said when asked how much practice time he needs before playing in a game. “I’m hoping tomorrow’s practice will be easier, and the day after will be easier as well, so I’m just kind of taking a one-day-at-a-time approach here, but I’m remaining positive.”
Kuznetsov and Samsonov returned to the ice, but forward Jakub Vrana remains on the covid-19 list after he was added Saturday. Players can be put on the list for multiple reasons, including a positive test, contact tracing or symptoms.
Almost 100 players across the league have gone on the covid-19 list since the season began almost four weeks ago, but fewer than half of those players had confirmed positive tests, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week.
Nevertheless, the NHL has four teams shut down because of coronavirus issues: the Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche. Buffalo and New Jersey have not played since they faced each other Jan. 31, and the Devils had three additional games postponed Monday. Minnesota and Colorado have not played since their most recent meeting last Tuesday. The Wild had two additional games postponed Monday, and the Avalanche is scheduled to return Sunday night.
Meanwhile, Capitals forward T.J. Oshie missed Monday’s practice with an upper-body injury and remains day-to-day. He did not play in Sunday’s loss to the Flyers.
Defenseman Justin Schultz practiced Monday, skating with the team for the first time since he took a puck to the face Jan. 28 against the New York Islanders. Schultz, who practiced in a full face shield and said he is day-to-day, lost a couple of teeth and suffered a couple of small fractures, but he called his situation “nothing too serious.”
“I was feeling pretty good and obviously getting some more confidence,” he said. “It’s frustrating that happened, but I haven’t missed too much time here, so hopefully when I come back [I] pick up where I left off and help the team in whatever way I can.”
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