ARLINGTON, Va. – Washington Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt sustained a scapular fracture Sunday and will miss 6-8 weeks.
"It's very unfortunate," said defenseman Mike Green, Schmidt's most frequent defensive partner. "He's such a good young player and I've enjoyed playing with him over the course of the start of the season and a little bit last year. It's really unfortunate to be honest with you. I feel for him. I really do."
Schmidt, who appeared in each of Washington's first 31 games, was a healthy scratch in seven of the next nine games prior to being assigned to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League on Saturday to receive playing time. He scored two power-play goals that night against the Norfolk Admirals.
The 23-year-old absorbed a hard check from Admirals forward Chris Wagner on Sunday during the second period. Capitals goaltender Justin Peters, on a conditioning loan with the Bears, was nearby.
"He was off balance," Peters said. "The guy came in and finished his check. [Schmidt] was probably at the bottom of the circle, I think, when he got hit and continued into the boards.
"Last night, I know he didn't have any movement. It was a weird situation. [Trainers] almost thought it was nerve or something because he couldn't move it but they could move it and there wasn't pain."
Schmidt and Green functioned as Washington's third pairing, each possessing impressive puck-moving skill that was reflected in their puck-possession statistics. When playing with Green, Schmidt had a 54.3 Corsi percentage, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said that no surgery will be required. Defenseman Jack Hillen, who replaced Schmidt in the lineup last month, will skate with Green against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday and likely for the foreseeable future.
"Tough news for us, but tough news for him," Trotz said. "Obviously we have good intentions of having him go down there and play. … That's a huge loss for us, huge for him, because I think we were really happy with where he is."
The Avalanche begin a five-game road trip Monday at Verizon Center, where goaltender Semyon Varlamov is expected to start against his former team. He is 2-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .973 save percentage against the Capitals, who drafted him in the first round (No. 23) of the 2006 NHL Draft.
The NHL named Varlamov the "Second Star" for the week ending Jan. 11 Monday after he won all three of his starts, including setting a League record for saves in a regular-season road shutout with 54 against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 6. His 127 saves last week set a new franchise record for the most over a three-game span.
"This is a huge roadie for us," Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie told Altitude Radio. "I think you look at the last couple games we've played and we think we've played real well. [Varlamov's] played outstanding and we're stringing some big wins here together. We don't want to have any letdown on this road trip."
Here are the projected lineups:
Gabriel Landeskog – Matt Duchene – Borna Rendulic
Alex Tanguay – Ryan O'Reilly – Jarome Iginla
Maxime Talbot – John Mitchell – Nathan MacKinnon
Cody McLeod – Marc-Andre Cliche – Daniel Briere
Jan Hejda – Erik Johnson
Brad Stuart – Nick Holden
Nate Guenin – Tyson Barrie
Scratched: Zach Redmond
Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (knee), Jamie McGinn (back surgery), Ben Street (hand), Jesse Winchester (concussion), Ryan Wilson (shoulder surgery)
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Andre Burakovsky
Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Troy Brouwer
Brooks Laich – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Jack Hillen – Mike Green
Scratched: Michael Latta, Aaron Volpatti
Injured: Nate Schmidt (scapular fracture), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)
Status report: Peters returned Monday from a two-game conditioning stint with Hershey, finishing 1-1-0 with a 1.51 goals-against average and .948 save percentage. Trotz said that Peters will likely start Saturday against the Dallas Stars, which would be his first NHL appearance since Nov. 29.
Who's hot: The expected goaltending matchup between the Capitals and Avalanche will be intriguing. Varlamov is 4-1-0 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in January. Holtby, who will make his 19th straight start, is 12-2-4 with a 2.14 GAA and .930 save percentage during the stretch.