|Penalized Capitals face uphill battle vs. Sabres|
The Washington Capitals might be without their full complement of players, including their biggest star, when they're scheduled to open a six-game homestand Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
Three-time MVP Alex Ovechkin was one of four Capitals placed on the NHL's COVID-19 list Wednesday and the team was fined $100,000 by the league for violating coronavirus protocols, including a gathering in a hotel room during their season-opening, four-game trip.
Forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Ilya Samsonov were also placed on the COVID-19 list.
The Capitals were punished by the league for "social interactions among team members who were in close contact and who were not wearing face coverings."
"I regret my choice to spend time together with my teammates in our hotel room and away from the locker room areas," Ovechkin said in a statement issued by the Capitals. "I will learn from this experience."
Being on the COVID-19 list made the four players unavailable for practice, but they could be allowed back before Friday's game.
In the statement, the Capitals said they were "disappointed by our players' choice to interact in their hotel room and outside of team-approved areas."
The Capitals went 2-0-2 on their season-opening trip, with both victories coming in Buffalo. They opened the season with a 6-4 victory on Jan. 14, then came back the next night with a 2-1 decision.
T.J. Oshie had a goal and two assists in the opener, the Capitals' first game under new coach Peter Laviolette.
"There is a lot more than just me that got changed over (this offseason), and a lot of new pieces in there, and I think it is really important for our team," Laviolette said. "It's the start of the season or the start of a new direction, and I think guys can really enjoy that."
The Capitals' Vitek Vanecek made 30 saves in the 2-1 victory while making his NHL debut Jan. 15.
Washington suffered a pair of overtime losses in Pittsburgh, one in a shootout, to wrap up its first trip.
The Sabres got their first victory of the season Monday in Philadelphia, defeating the Flyers 6-1 as Curtis Lazar and Sam Reinhart each scored twice and Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall each had three assists.
The offense vanished in a 3-0 loss the next night to the Flyers and Sabres goalie Carter Hutton left after the second period following an elbow to the head from Philadelphia's Ivan Provorov. Hutton was playing for the second consecutive night with Linus Ullmark unavailable due to a personal matter. Jonas Johansson replaced Hutton for the third period Tuesday.
It wasn't the first time a member of the Sabres has dealt with a high blow this season. Rasmus Dahlin took a hit to the head Monday that resulted in a fine for the Flyers' Nicolas Aube-Kubel, and Eric Staal had to exit a game against Washington after an elbow from Nic Dowd that received a two-minute minor for an illegal check.
"It's, in four games, the third hit to the head of, for me, a violent type," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said of Hutton's injury. "If you look at the way that the elbow comes extended, you know what you're doing. We'll see where this takes us. He's under assessment."
--Field Level Media