The games against Buffalo, originally scheduled for Thursday and Saturday, are off because the Sabres are also dealing with coronavirus issues. They returned to practice Tuesday after a week-long shutdown, but nine Buffalo players remain on the covid-19 list.
Washington’s next scheduled game is Sunday against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
“As a competitive person, it sucks,” Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said. “I wish I could use a different word, maybe, but it’s tough. … I know the times are crazy. I hope people are doing the best they can.
“I know we got in a little bit of trouble [early in the season], but our team has been outstanding at following the rules lately, and I hope the other teams are, too, because the best part of our jobs is playing games, and not being able to do that right now, it sucks pretty bad.”
The NHL’s coronavirus concerns have piled up as the season has progressed. Four teams — the Flyers, New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche — are completely shut down because of the virus.
The Vegas Golden Knights scrapped their media availability after a win over the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night, a decision that was related to coronavirus issues. The Golden Knights, who had three games postponed earlier in the season, canceled practice Wednesday.
The NHL said in a statement Wednesday that a Vegas player, Tomas Nosek, came out of Tuesday’s game after he tested positive for the virus. Contact tracing has begun, the league said, and Thursday’s game between the Ducks and Golden Knights remains on schedule.
Center Lars Eller, who is one of the Capitals’ representatives with the players’ union, said the league’s guidance might need to evolve if outbreaks continue to occur.
“Probably more can be done than just masks and distancing because we are doing all those things and if that alone was enough, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” he said.
Oshie said adjusting to the NHL’s virus guidelines has been “fine” and that getting tested at the rink each morning, wearing masks and social distancing in the locker room has become the norm.
“It’s really — it’s crazy times, and I’m not too scared of getting it personally, but I’m following all the rules that I’ve been told to follow,” Oshie said.
The break in play, though unplanned, gives the once-ailing Capitals a chance to reset.
“I can’t remember us missing so many bodies ever at one time — goalies, defensemen, several forwards, all regular players,” Eller said. “It is great for us. Hopefully we can have a healthy lineup once we start playing again. That will do us good.”
Center Evgeny Kuznetsov and goaltender Ilya Samsonov came off the covid-19 list Monday, and they both needed some more practice time before they could get back to full speed. The pair missed eight games while they were on the list.
Both players said they experienced symptoms while they were away from the team. Samsonov, through an interpreter, said he had trouble breathing and walking at times, and there were a few days when he felt “pretty sick.”
Defenseman Justin Schultz also rejoined the group Monday after taking a puck to the face Jan. 28. He was skating with a full face shield Wednesday and was listed as day-to-day.
The lack of games also gives more practice time to Jakub Vrana, who came off the covid-19 list Tuesday. Players can be put on the list for multiple reasons, including if they had a positive test, are in contact tracing or are symptomatic.
“I think as a team, it’s good [to have this break]. Guys banged up, guys getting back into game shape,” Oshie said. “It’s all in the way you approach it. … It’s nice for guys to be able to get their bodies right.”
Oshie, who missed one game with an upper-body injury, was back with the team Wednesday. He said he was feeling “great and back to normal.”
Oshie described the injury as “kind of a freak thing” that didn’t occur in a game. The winger said he would have been able to play Tuesday if that game hadn’t been postponed.
“It feels like we’ve been playing the season for a long time, but I know we’re still pretty early in the year, so it’s a good time for guys to reset their bodies,” he said.
Note: Michael Peca was added to Coach Peter Laviolette’s staff as a player development coach. Peca, who will mostly work with the taxi squad, played under Laviolette with the New York Islanders in the early 2000s. A two-time Selke Trophy winner, Peca played for six teams during a 14-year NHL career.
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