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Samsonov unable to play for Capitals in postseason

Rookie goalie missed camp with undisclosed injury; Copley, Vanecek options to back up Holtby

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Ilya Samsonov will not play for the Washington Capitals again this season because of an undisclosed injury.

The rookie backup goalie will not travel to Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city, for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and will remain in Washington to continue treatment.

"It's disappointing for the player, disappointing for us," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. "He's a guy that's a really good young prospect for us, so to not have him with us is disappointing. I thought he's made some strides and put together a pretty good run this year, so to be without him is certainly disappointing, but the right thing to do is to leave him here and allow him to get treatment, so that he is ready to go next year when we have that opportunity to start playing hockey again."

Reirden declined to discuss when or how Samsonov was injured. The 23-year-old went to Russia after the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. He returned July 2 for the start of training camp on July 13 but did not participate in any practices. 

As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.

"It's not a COVID positive test. It's an injury," Reirden said. "That's the part I can share with you at this point. I'll be able to get into more later."

The Capitals will play the Tampa Bay Lightning (Aug. 3), Philadelphia Flyers (Aug. 6) and Boston Bruins (Aug. 9) in Toronto to determine seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They play an exhibition game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday (4 p.m. ET; NBCSN, FS-CR, NHL.TV).

Reirden said No. 1 goalie Braden Holtby will play the first two periods of the exhibition game. He wouldn't say whether Pheonix Copley or rookie Vitek Vanecek will play the remainder of that game or which goalie will back up Holtby when the Qualifiers begin.

"We're going to continue to evaluate that situation and I think we'll know a little bit more when we get to Toronto and get closer to that situation," Reirden said.

Copley was 16-7-3 with a 2.90 goals-against average, a .905 save percentage and one shutout as Washington's backup last season. The 28-year-old was 17-8-6 with a 2.46 GAA, .905 save percentage and two shutouts with Hershey in the American Hockey League this season.

Vanecek has yet to play an NHL game. The 24-year-old was 19-10-1 with a 2.26 GAA, .917 save percentage and two shutouts with Hershey this season. 

The No. 22 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Samsonov had a strong rookie season and pushed Holtby for playing time by going 16-6-2 with a 2.55 GAA, .913 save percentage and one shutout. With Holtby able to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, Samsonov would be his likely successor in Washington.

"He's a player that had a big impact on our team this first year and is going to have a big impact on the team for many years to come," Reirden said." It is disappointing for the player and for our team (that Samsonov is injured) but this is what it is all about is making adjustments and adapting to the unpredictable and making sure that we are doing all we can to give ourselves a chance to win." 

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