SUNRISE, Fla. — Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich will sit out Saturday night against the Florida Panthers, but coach Adam Oates said it was more as a precaution than anything else.
Laich played in Washington’s past nine games after missing the first 28 because of a groin injury, but he did not play in the last 9:26 of regulation or overtime in a 2-1 shootout victory Thursday against the New York Islanders.
“He didn’t really aggravate it,” Oates said after the morning skate Saturday. “He’s just sore all over, just from playing so much since he got back and fighting through it. I think we just need to give him a little rest.
“He probably could play today. But he’s getting a little weaker. He played fine the other night. I shut him down just because he got hit. He wasn’t feeling good all over.”
Oates said Laich’s status was day-to-day.
Martin Erat, acquired from the Nashville Predators before the NHL Trade Deadline Wednesday, will replace Laich on the second line alongside Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer.
“You want to be healthy, but teams have injuries,” Oates said. “Everybody goes through it. Obviously that move sure looks good right now.”
Oates again will go with Braden Holtby in net against Florida. Holtby, who will be making his 11th consecutive start, has played a major role in the Capitals’ 7-2-1 run that has moved them to the top of the Southeast Division standings.
For the Panthers, 2010 first-round draft pick Nick Bjugstad will make his NHL debut centering a line with Quinton Howden and Jack Skille, who is back after missing five games with an upper-body injury.
About eight family members flew to South Florida for the 20-year-old’s debut, including his parents, Mike and Janeen, and his sister, Abbie, who lives in the Netherlands.
Somebody else excited to see Bjugstad make it to the NHL is Capitals forward Matt Hendricks.
Hendricks, who is 31, and Bjugstad played for the same high school, Blaine, in Minnesota. Hendricks was coached by Bjugstad’s uncle, longtime NHL player Scott Bjugstad, and Nick was around the team quite a bit.
“I’m feeling old tonight, seeing him getting an opportunity to play in the NHL,” Hendricks said. “But being from Blaine and being the kid that he is, it’s great to see and I’m very happy for him.”
“It’s real weird. He was around the rink all the time. He was a small, little guy and now he’s a lot bigger than me. I’ve been watching Nick. I watched him through his high school career. His uncle keeps me informed on how he’s doing and things. He had a great career for the University of Minnesota and this is just the next feather in his cap. He’s a tremendous player and I’m sure he’s a huge asset for the Florida Panthers.”
In addition to Bjugstad, the Panthers will have another new center in the lineup, with Scott Timmins called up from San Antonio of the American Hockey League to replace Drew Shore. Shore will miss his second consecutive game with an upper-body injury, although coach Kevin Dineen did not rule him out for a game Sunday against the Ottawa Senators.
Veteran defenseman Mike Weaver, who has been out since sustaining a lower-body injury Feb. 28 against the Buffalo Sabres, took part in the morning skate but Dineen has ruled him out for the two weekend games.
Here are the projected lineups for the Capitals and Panthers:
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin
Martin Erat - Mike Ribeiro - Troy Brouwer
Eric Fehr - Mathieu Perreault - Joel Ward
Jason Chimera - Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle
Karl Alzner - Mike Green
Jack Hillen - John Carlson
John Erskine - Steve Oleksy
Scratched: Wojtek Wolski, Aaron Volpatti, Jeff Schultz
Injured: Brooks Laich (groin), Tom Poti (back)
Jonathan Huberdeau - Shawn Matthias - Peter Mueller
Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky
Quinton Howden - Nick Bjugstad - Jack Skille
Scottie Upshall - Scott Timmins - George Parros
Brian Campbell - Tyson Strachan
Filip Kuba - Dmitry Kulikov
TJ Brennan - Erik Gudbranson
Injured: Drew Shore (upper body), Mike Weaver (lower body), Ed Jovanovski (hip), C Stephen Weiss (wrist), Kris Versteeg (knee), Jose Theodore (lower body), Eric Selleck (upper body), Sean Bergenheim (lower body)