The Washington Capitals received a bit of a scare Wednesday when Alex Ovechkin left practice with an injury.
While the Capitals were relieved to find out the reigning MVP won't miss any time, the Toronto Maple Leafs weren't as fortunate with goaltender Vesa Toskala.
Ovechkin looks to help the Southeast Division-leading Capitals break out of their home slump Thursday night against the Maple Leafs, who will play their first game since learning of Toskala's season-ending injury.
A day after Tuesday's 5-2 home loss to Carolina, Ovechkin left the ice during Washington's practice after he was hit in the right skate by a slap shot. He removed his skate and hopped to the locker room with the help of a trainer.
"He's fine," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said after practice. "I'm not concerned. ... It's sore, but he's OK."
Led by Ovechkin's NHL-best 46 goals, the Capitals (40-20-5) appear to be a lock for their second straight Southeast Division title and one of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference. With that in mind, general manager George McPhee said he wasn't planning on making any moves at Wednesday's trade deadline to change the group's dynamic.
The deadline came and went with McPhee not making any changes to a team that owns an 11-point lead over Florida in the Southeast and is two points behind New Jersey in the race for second in the East.
"Some years it's easy to do, and other years there's just nothing out there that makes sense for your club," McPhee said. "And no deal is better than a bad deal."
Although the Capitals remain one of the favorites to come out of the East, they're suddenly no longer dominant at home.
Washington has the league's fourth-best home record (25-8-1), but has lost four of six at the Verizon Center, including Sunday's 6-2 defeat to the Panthers.
"We're going through this funk right now," Boudreau said. "It looked like there was a complete lack of energy."
The Capitals have won five of their last seven home games over the Maple Leafs (25-26-13), including a 4-1 victory on Dec. 28 behind two goals each from Ovechkin and Brooks Laich. Washington also won 2-1 at Toronto on Dec. 6.
While the Capitals stayed pat at the deadline, the Maple Leafs made several moves.
On the same day Toskala announced he would need season-ending hip and groin surgery, Toronto picked up goalie Martin Gerber off re-entry waivers from Ottawa.
Toskala made 49 saves in Tuesday's 3-2 overtime loss to New Jersey and said nothing specific happened in that game that forced him to shut it down for the year.
"We've been knowing what's going on for a while," said Toskala, who is 7-0-4 with a 3.15 goals-against average since the All-Star break. "We made the decision together. We need to start healing as soon as possible because recovery might take quite a long time."
Gerber, who hasn't appeared in the NHL since Jan. 8, is 4-9-1 with a 2.86 GAA in 14 appearances this season.
The Leafs also claimed defenseman Erik Reitz off waivers from the New York Rangers and traded forward Nik Antropov to the Rangers for a second-round pick and a conditional pick in the 2009 draft. Forward Dominic Moore was sent to Buffalo for a second-round pick.
In a deal with Tampa Bay for defenseman Richard Petiot, Toronto received injured goalie Olaf Kolzig, who spent his previous 16 seasons with the Capitals, defensemen Jamie Heward and Andy Rogers and a fourth-round pick.
The Leafs, who are nine points out of the final playoff spot in the East, have at least one point in seven straight (4-0-3).