By Chris Gordon
As the Capitals finished off their ninth straight win on Wednesday, the sellout crowd roared in approval of the NHL’s best team. But 20 minutes later, there were only hushed gasps from the press corps as head coach Barry Trotz explained how costly Washington’s 28th had been.
Jay Beagle, who left the game with 5:52 left in the second period, will need upper-body surgery. Though Trotz refused to say what the injury was, the coach said Washington’s third line center, who has tallied six goals this season, will be out “for an extended period of time.” He is expected to be placed on injured reserve shortly.
Washington finished their 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres with just two of their original four centers in the lineup, after star pivot Nicklas Backstrom, who missed the beginning of the season recovering from hip surgery, did not play in the third period. Backstrom, who has a history of concussions, was checked into the corner boards at the end second frame, with his head whipping back and striking the glass. Nevertheless, Trotz is hopeful the Swede will be able to play Thursday in Carolina, the bookend of back-to-back games for Washington.
“Nick’s traveling with us,” Trotz said shortly before the team headed to Dulles International Airport. “He may play tomorrow.”
John Carlson, however, will not suit up. After playing in 412 consecutive games, the second-most in franchise history, Carlson will miss his third straight game against the Hurricanes. Carlson, 25, underwent an MRI exam before Wednesday’s game.
“He’s gonna miss a few games here,” Trotz said of Carlson.
In a small bit of good news, Trotz said Michael Latta, who suffered an arm injury in a fight against Nicolas Deslauriers on Monday, will play in the New Year’s Eve tilt in Raleigh. Center Zach Sill, who was called up from Hershey after Latta’s injury, will stick with the team now that Beagle is out.
“We’re pretty confident in ourselves and what we can do as a group,” goaltender Braden Holtby said when asked about the team’s injuries. “Obviously it makes it tougher. Those guys play a huge role on our team, but we’re gonna have to find different ways to win.”
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