“It sucks, obviously,” Ovechkin told reporters earlier on Saturday. “No one wants to be suspended. No one wants to put yourself in that position. It’s over. You learn from it and move on.”
Washington rallied in their captain’s absence, picking up seven out of a possible eight points. Saturday’s game against the Bruins is an important one for Washington; it marks the first time former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will face his old team after they let him walk in free agency.
Ovechkin has been sidelined since Jan. 19, the Capitals’ first road trip of the season. Goalie Ilya Samsonov tested positive for COVID-19, which forced the NHL to conduct contract tracing. It was determined that Ovechkin, forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov and Samsonov were all in the same hotel room, which violates the NHL’s strict road trip rules for the 2021 season. The Capitals were fined $100,000 as a team.
Several players have told ESPN they believed the NHL came down hard on the Capitals because they wanted to use them as an example.
“It was a shock at first,” veteran forward TJ Oshie told ESPN earlier on Saturday. “Just speaking about Ovi, he doesn’t miss many games. There hasn’t been many games where No. 8 isn’t in the lineup. So that alone has been a pretty big difference, when one of the best players in the world, the best goal scorer I haven’t seen, and our captain on top of it, it’s tough. But to lose all four of them was quite a big surprise. Those are guys that you can’t replace. We kind of just had a next man up mentality, and little by little as a group we tried to work for each other and just play hard for each other.”
Ovechkin has only missed 35 games out of a possible 1,191 in his career — with only 17 due to injury.
Orlov was cleared off the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list but is not in the lineup on Saturday. Samsonov and Kuznetsov have yet to be cleared.
“It’s a situation where rules are rules,” Ovechkin said on Saturday. “You can see all the names there…if you make mistake it can cost you couple of games.”
The 35-year-old has won seven of the last eight scoring titles, and in his media session displayed his signature blunt sense of humor.
“I had my bye week already,” Ovechkin joked. “I feel pretty rested and ready to go. Obviously, I don’t have lots of time to spend on the ice but I did some workouts in my gym and did some running. Tried to do max of what I could do.”