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Eller plans to leave Capitals during Qualifiers for birth of son

Center permitted to travel home from Eastern Conference hub under Phase 4 protocols

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Lars Eller said he plans to leave the Washington Capitals during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers so he can be there when his son is born.

The center intends to be with the Capitals when they travel to the Eastern Conference hub in Toronto on July 26 and play in their opening round-robin game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Aug. 3. He will likely return to the Washington area soon after that to be with his wife, Julie, who is due to give birth to the couple's second child Aug. 8.

"We're going to have a new addition to our family here in a couple weeks," Eller said. "I don't know when it's going to happen, but it's going to happen. But at the same time, I want to be with my team and also committed to that and want to win another Cup. We're working on making the necessary arrangements so I can be there for the birth and come back to [Toronto] after that."

The Capitals also play the Philadelphia Flyers on Aug. 6 and the Boston Bruins on Aug. 8 in the round-robin, which will determine seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Eller will be permitted to leave the hub city under the Phase 4 protocols in the NHL Return Play Plan, which stipulate that a player can leave for extenuating circumstances, such as the birth of a child, if given approval by his team. 

When Eller returns to Toronto after his son is born, he will be required to quarantine in his hotel room until he has received at least four consecutive negative COVID-19 test results over a four-day period. Under certain circumstances, including if the player was exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 while outside the secure zone, his quarantine could last up to 14 days.

Eller doesn't want to miss any of the big moments that occur during a postseason run. But there's no bigger moment for a parent than the birth of a child, and Eller doesn't want to miss that, so he wants to make sure he takes the proper precautions in formulating his plan for when and how he'll leave and return to Toronto.

"Depending on how you travel and you travel back and forth and who you're going to be in contact with and so on, I'll have to serve some time inside the bubble and test a number of times before I can join my teammates again and play games," said Eller, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 5 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, when the Capitals won their first championship. "We're working on trying to figure out how we do that the best possible way. That's what's going to happen."

Forward Carl Hagelin would face the same situation if Washington is still playing in September, when his wife, Erica, is due to give birth to their second child. When weighing the pros and cons of returning to play after the NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, Hagelin said Erica supported his decision to rejoin the Capitals, but with one important stipulation.

"She said as long as you come back when the kid is born, you're welcome to leave," Hagelin said. "She knows hockey is a big part of my life and it's a big part of our family's life. … We have an opportunity here to win the Stanley Cup and that's the goal right now."

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