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Ovechkin, three other Capitals out four games due to COVID-19 protocol

Kuznetsov, Orlov, Samsonov also won't play; Washington fined $100,000

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin and three other Washington Capitals players will be out at least four games quarantining in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols and local restrictions.

Along with the Capitals forward, center Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov and goalie Ilya Samsonov each won't play over the next week. 

"Right now, the players are in quarantine, and at this point I believe it's four games and then under review, and so we'll go from there," coach Peter Laviolette said Thursday. "There will probably be an announcement at some point. But I believe we're looking at that, and we'll look at everything."

Washington opens a six-game homestand against the Buffalo Sabres at Capital One Arena on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSWA+, MSG-B, NHL.TV). It also plays the Sabres on Sunday and the New York Islanders on Tuesday and Thursday.

Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Orlov and Samsonov were placed on the NHL list of players unavailable to play or practice in accordance with League COVID-19 protocols Wednesday. The NHL also fined the Capitals $100,000 for player violations of League COVID 19 protocols, which involved social interactions among team members who were in close contact and who were not wearing face coverings. 

In a statement, the Capitals said the incident involved players interacting in their hotel room during the season-opening four-game trip: at the Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 14 and 15, and at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday and Tuesday.

"I regret my choice to spend time together with my teammates in our hotel room and away from the locker room areas," Ovechkin, the Capitals captain, said in a statement. "I will learn from this experience."

Laviolette said the players were in contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19, but did not indicate if any of the four players tested positive.

"I know that there was a positive case and through their tracing and their tracking the players were honest with what they did," Laviolette said. "I guess what I'm saying is I don't know the exact chain myself of how things happened, but there was a determination that there were four players that were close contacts and from there they now have to quarantine."

According to COVID-19 guidelines in Washington and in Virginia, where the Capitals practice facility is located, a person in close contact with an individual who has tested positive must self-quarantine for at least seven days. A negative test on or after the fifth day is required to end the quarantine after seven days.

Ovechkin, who has missed 31 games over his 16 NHL seasons, has scored five points (one goal, four assists) in four games this season. The forward has scored 707 NHL goals, one behind Mike Gartner for seventh in NHL history. Kuznetsov and Orlov, whose streak of playing 401 consecutive regular-season games will end, have played four games. Samsonov and goalie Vitek Vanecek have alternated starts.

"We know that those guys want to be here," Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said. "They want to be in the lineup and they feel terrible that they're not and they put themselves in a situation that they're not going to be playing with us. But for us, it's next-man-up mentality."

With Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Orlov and Samsonov unavailable, Washington recalled goalie Craig Anderson from the taxi squad to the active roster. Laviolette said center Brian Pinho, who remained on the taxi squad Thursday, likely will make his NHL regular-season debut after playing in two games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler is expected to make his season debut in place of Orlov, and forward Conor Sheary, a healthy scratch the past two games, is expected to dress in place of Ovechkin.

"Those are four big pieces for us and important pieces, so they'll be missed," Laviolette said. "It's a difficult thing. We totally understand why the rules are in place and there's no arguing with that. We want to be compliant. We made a mistake, and we need to do a better job."

Washington also added rookie forward Connor McMichael to the taxi squad Thursday. A first-round pick (No. 25) by the Capitals in the 2019 NHL Draft, McMichael missed all of training camp after playing for Canada in the 2021 IIHF World Championship and remained in the Washington area to quarantine when the Capitals were on the road.

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