The Washington Capitals are seeing their first player draw out of the lineup for COVID-19 reasons.
Lars Eller will not play for the Capitals on Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks due to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. He is unavailable for the team at this time. It’s unclear if Eller has tested positive. He is the first Capitals player to enter protocol this season.
Washington announced at the start of training camp that the organization was 100 percent vaccinated. Last season, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov went on the COVID-19 list due to socializing together in a hotel room without masks. Kuznetsov and Samsonov appeared on the list again later in the season, with Kuznetsov testing positive twice.
Eller did make the trip to California for the Capitals’ West Coast swing. He missed the team’s morning skate on Tuesday. Garrett Pilon, who was called up from Hershey on Monday, took his place at third-line center between Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and Garnet Hathaway. When asked about Eller, head coach Peter Laviolette said the team was working through things in the room.
Washington is again down to just 12 healthy forwards. With Eller out, the Capitals are missing three of their top-4 centers, with the exception of Kuznetsov.
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Eller has been starting to heat up for Washington with points in three straight games. He also scored his first goal of the season on Thursday.
Washington will see its fourth Bears call-up to play this year when Pilon laces ’em up against the Ducks. He joins Hershey teammates Jonsson-Fjallby, Brett Leason, and Aliaksei Protas.
“I’m here to do whatever is asked of me,” Pilon, who made his NHL debut last season, said in regard to his role.
On the plus side for Washington, T.J. Oshie and Nic Dowd are both on the trip and skating. They continue to recover from their respective injuries, and getting them back in the lineup would give Washington back a top-6 forward and their best face-off man and top penalty killer.
In the meantime, the kids will have to come up big once again on a tough road trip that’ll see a lot of games over the next few games against some solid Southern California clubs.