The Washington Capitals will be without Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, and Ilya Samsonov for the next week of games at least after the Russians broke NHL protocol by hanging out in a hotel room together during their recent road trip.
“Right now the players are in quarantine,” Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said. “At this point, I believe it’s four games and then under review so we’ll go from there. There’ll probably be an announcement at some point.
“Those are four big pieces for us, important pieces,” Laviolette said. “They’ll be missed.”
According to Laviolette, the four players got in trouble with the league after there was a positive case — Ilya Samsonov per the Washington Post’s Samantha Pell — and the NHL began contact tracing.
News: Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov has tested positive for coronavirus, two people with knowledge of the situation said Thursday. The team received news of Samsonov’s positive test Tuesday night. https://t.co/qvbOavlgYD
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) January 21, 2021
“I know there was a positive case through their tracing and their tracking,” Laviolette said. “The players were honest with what they did. I don’t know the exact chain of how things happen. There was a determination that there were four players in close contact. From there, they now have to quarantine.”
When asked to clarify who tested positive, Laviolette said it wasn’t one of the four Russians.
“No. The four players are under protocol for COVID,” he said. “So because of that, they have to quarantine at this point.”
Laviolette said that the Capitals did not put up a fight with the NHL’s ruling.
“We knew the rules. We’re not sitting here saying we were uninformed or unaware,” Laviolette said. “The players being on their first road trip and being inside a hotel for that long of a time wanting to be near each other, I get it. At the end of the day, it’s about staying safe.”
That sentiment was backed up by Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie who said they understood the NHL’s guidelines.
“Yeah. We went over protocol,” Backstrom said. “We’re under tight protocol here. We’re trying to do the right things here. I think we had a pretty good idea what the upcoming season was gonna be. We just gotta deal with it as a team.”
Oshie added, “Yeah I understood it. Every guy’s in a different situation… I personally understood it and assumed it.”
Laviolette, though, tried to give the Caps’ quarantining superstars a break saying there’s a learning curve with everyone.
“Honestly, even I made a mistake,” Laviolette said. “I dropped my mask. It was out there at the end of the game in the celebration. I’ve got to do a better job too. It’s a learning lesson for everybody because it is real stuff that we’re talking about. We don’t take it lightly. We’re trying to be 100 percent compliant. When you make a mistake, it can be costly.
“It’s a difficult thing,” he added. “We totally understand why the rules are in place. There’s no arguing with that. We want to be compliant. We made a mistake. We need to do a better job.”
According to the head coach, the team will likely roll with the lines that practiced together during Thursday’s practice. Capitals’ top prospect Connor McMichael could get a jersey after the team’s home opener.
“We met with the team today,” Laviolette said. “I talked to Alex a couple times yesterday. We texted the group of players that are now in quarantine and held a meeting with the players today to continue to work and try to get better. We do wear our masks. We do put them on. We try to remember it all the time. We’re trying to do a good job and we can be better. That’s the message.”
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