“I don’t think it’s anything long term,” Laviolette said on 106.7 the Fan. “I’m not sure if he will be there [Tuesday], but I don’t think anyone needs to start getting worried about the playoffs or anything like that. . . . I think we will be okay by then. Guys turn around pretty quick.”
Ovechkin, who has a lower-body injury, did not play in the Capitals’ 6-3 victory Saturday against the Islanders in Uniondale, N.Y. It was the first game the 35-year-old winger had missed because of injury since March 5, 2015. The last time Ovechkin missed consecutive games while injured was Jan. 21-24, 2014. He was out with a lower-body injury.
“You’re never going to replace Ovi, obviously, one of the legends of the game and he’s still playing,” forward T.J. Oshie said. “. . . You know how bad Ovi wants to be out there; the guy never really misses a game.”
Ovechkin was hurt in the late stages of Thursday’s 1-0 shootout win at the Islanders. He pulled up early during a shift late in the third period, appearing to grab his right groin or inner thigh before skating to the bench. He did not play in the final 2:49 of regulation and did not take any overtime shifts.
Ovechkin has 24 goals and 18 assists in 43 games this year. He also missed four games in January while on the NHL’s covid-19 protocol list. The Capitals are 4-0-1 this season without Ovechkin in the lineup.
Daniel Sprong filled in for Ovechkin on the top line Saturday night and scored a pair of goals. He took reps in the same spot during Monday’s practice.
“Kid’s a shooter. He can score goals, and he scored two big ones for us the other night,” Oshie said.
Defenseman Justin Schultz also is uncertain for Tuesday’s game. He returned to practice Monday but skated in a noncontact jersey.
Schultz has missed two games because of a lower-body injury suffered in the first period of a 6-3 loss at the Boston Bruins on April 18. He did not travel with the team to Long Island for the two games against the Islanders.
Trevor van Riemsdyk has filled in for Schultz the past two games alongside Brenden Dillon on the second defensive pairing. Van Riemsdyk has been playing consistent minutes for the Capitals for the past three games as injuries suddenly struck Washington’s sturdy blue line. Zdeno Chara missed his first game of the season in the loss at Boston but returned to action Thursday.
On Saturday, Laviolette praised van Riemsdyk’s play, calling it “outstanding.”
“From a defensive standpoint, from a quick puck movement standpoint, a good first pass out of our end or through the neutral zone, he jumped right into the offensive zone identity,” Laviolette said. “. . . He worked hard every day, he never complained, he was a great teammate, he’s an extremely capable player; we just didn’t get him in there. He came back in the lineup and was a major contributor, really strong.”
The Capitals’ immediate depth players behind van Riemsdyk appear to be Paul LaDue, Martin Fehervary and Michal Kempny.
Kempny had surgery for a torn Achilles’ tendon in October and has not played this season. He has recently been skating for the entirety of practice in a full-contact jersey. He is still on long-term injured reserve. The Capitals have no salary cap space to put Kempny on the active roster, but if he is healthy and available, he could be added in the postseason.
Laviolette said the Capitals have discussed sending Kempny to their American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey, Pa., for a conditioning stint ahead of the playoffs, but no decision has been made.