- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 5, 2015

Alex Ovechkin will be a game-time decision because of an unspecified lower-body injury on Thursday when the Washington Capitals host the Minnesota Wild, coach Barry Trotz said.

Ovechkin, the league leader with 43 goals and tied for the league lead with center Nicklas Backstrom with 67 points, did not participate in the team’s morning skate. Trotz would not commit to Ovechkin’s availability for the game roughly eight hours ahead of its scheduled start time.

“We’ve got a couple guys who are sort of banged up right now, a little bit, and we’ve got a couple guys that are sort of in that warm-up mode,” Trotz said. “We’ll see after warm-ups.”

It is unclear when Ovechkin sustained the injury, though it would be reasonable to assume it happened during the 5-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

If Ovechkin is unable to play, it appears Andre Burakovsky, an emergency recall from Hershey, would slot in on the top line with Backstrom and Marcus Johansson. The three players worked together on a line during the morning skate.

The Capitals also lost fourth-line center Michael Latta, who did not practice Thursday morning, to an unspecified upper-body injury in that game against the Blue Jackets. Latta was checked into the boards by Blue Jackets winger Jared Boll in the first period, then played only 13 seconds on one shift five minutes into the second period and did not return.

Burakovsky has played in 48 of 65 games for Washington, scoring nine goals and picking up 12 assists during his first season. By being sent to Hershey, Burakovsky will be eligible to play for the Bears in the American Hockey League playoffs.

As an emergency recall, Burakovsky’s stint with the team will not count toward the Capitals‘ four transactions granted for minor-league players following Monday’s trade deadline. If Burakovsky does not play against the Wild, Trotz said, he must be immediately sent back to Hershey.

Burakovsky, 20, was sent to the minor leagues before the trade deadline on Monday, and Trotz and general manager Brian MacLellan each said Burakovsky would likely remain there for the time being following the acquisition of left wing Curtis Glencross.

“I was just down for practice and then I came back,” Burakovsky said. “Some guys here got hurt, so they immediately called me back. I just want to stay here. I hope I play tonight, and I do a great job, so I will give them a hard time to send me down.”

Left wing Brooks Laich, who was a healthy scratch on Tuesday, assumed he’ll return to the ice against Minnesota but hadn’t been told anything definite after the morning skate. It was the first time Laich had been told to sit out of a game while healthy since 2006-07, his second full season in the league.

Laich, who has scored five goals this season, has not scored since Jan. 7 — a span of 25 games.

“I’m very fortunate to have my passion be my career, and sometimes, that can be a detriment — where you overthink things and it controls you a little bit,” Laich said. “Myself, just take a deep breath, relax, play and have fun playing.”



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