Eller has lower-body injury uncertain for Capitals in Game 3 at Bruins
WASHINGTON – Lars EllerThe status of the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup First Round against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden Wednesday (6:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS, NESN, NBCSWA) is not clear due to lower body injury.
Eller was injured in the second period of Washington’s 4-3 overtime loss in Game 2 on Monday. The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1. He participated in the morning skating on Wednesday.
“Lars is an important player for us,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said on Tuesday. “He did a really good job, he managed big minutes against big opponents, and he played well for us, especially last month.”
Center a line with Conor Sheary and Michael raffl, Eller was central to the Capitals’ defensive plan against the Bruins Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. The Capitals held Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak without a tie in the Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win in Game 1.
But Bergeron and Marchand each scored a goal in Game 2, including Marchand’s winner at 39 seconds of overtime. Before Eller got hurt he helped out Hathaway Garnetgoal that tied the score 2-2 with 3:18 remaining in the first period.
Eller scored 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 44 games during the regular season, while he missed seven games from March 15 to 28 with a lower body injury.
He’s also one of the Capitals’ most trusted showdown centers. Eller has won 48.6% of faceoffs for the Capitals in the first two games of the series, while the Bruins have won 61.5% of draws.
“It’s still not easy to lose your teammate,” the defender Dmitry Orlov said after Game 2. “Everyone comes in and tries to play different lines and roles, so that’s what it is. It’s not the first time this has happened.”
The Capitals started the playoffs shorthanded down center with Evgeny Kuznetsov not ready to play after leaving NHL COVID-19 protocol on Sunday. Laviolette chose to shift TJ Oshie from the right wing to the center.
Kuznetsov and goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov, who left COVID-19 protocol on Saturday, has skated the last three days and traveled with the Capitals to Boston, but Laviolette would not say if either will be available to play on Wednesday.
“They are over there and it’s a good sign,” Laviolette said.
Kuznetsov, who usually crosses one of the Capitals’ first two rows, has 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in 41 games during the regular season. He scored 62 points (27 goals, 35 assists) in 78 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs, including 32 points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 24 games when Washington won the Stanley Cup in 2018.
Kuznetsov’s return would potentially be a boost for the Capitals, regardless of whether Eller is healthy enough to play.
“You’ve seen him at his best,” Laviolette said. “He’s an offensive talent. He’s a guy who can make a difference in a game.”