Washington Capitals winger Andre Burakovsky will not travel with the team to Columbus, out for at least the next two games with what the team is calling an “upper-body” injury.
“He’s going to miss some time here,” Coach Barry Trotz said Monday.
Burakovsky was injured on a hit from Columbus forward Boone Jenner in the first period, and he played just five shifts and 2:12 overall. The Capitals went on to lose in overtime for the second straight game and trail the Blue Jackets 2-0 in their best-of-seven series.
The loss is a blow for a Washington team already low on top-six forward talent. Burakovsky finished the regular season with three goals and three assists in his last eight games, playing well down the stretch after his season got off to a miserable start. He missed 20 games earlier in the year because of a broken thumb. In what was a disappointing fourth NHL season, he finished with 12 goals and 13 assists in 56 games.
Burakovsky was skating on a second line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. The injury to Burakovsky re-opens the door for rookie winger Jakub Vrana, who was a healthy scratch on Sunday night.
“For the player, it’s frustrating,” Trotz said. “Our mentality is the next guy up. The next guy up will be Jakub Vrana. For Andre, I feel bad for Andre. … Every time he’s played very, very well, he’s had some injuries. It’s a setback, but he’ll come back strong.”
Vrana scored 13 goals and 14 assists in 73 games this season. He had the primary assist on Devante Smith-Pelly’s goal in Game 1 of the series, but he also had a pair of turnovers in his playoff debut and finished the game with less than seven minutes of ice time. With center Jay Beagle returning to the lineup on Sunday after an upper-body injury, Trotz had to push one forward out and he chose the 22-year-old skilled Czech, the organization’s first-round pick in 2015.
But Vrana’s speed and offensive instincts are most comparable to Burakovsky’s, which is why he’s the natural choice to draw back into the lineup with Washington managing just two even-strength goals so far in this series. It’s unclear if Vrana will just take Burakovsky’s place beside Backstrom and Oshie, or if he’ll resume his spot on the third line next to center Lars Eller with someone else promoted to the second line.
“It was his first playoff game, and there was a lot of jitters in his game,” Trotz said of Vrana. “I know you have to go through that the first game, in terms of just the game was a little overwhelming when we as a staff looked at that. But Jake’s going to be fine. He’s going to fill that hole exactly how Burky’s done.”
More Capitals/NHL coverage:
Blue Jackets-Capitals Game 2: Capitals blow two-goal lead again. Lose in OT again.
Sergei Bobrovsky is ‘dead on his game’ as Columbus staggers Washington in Game 2
If the Capitals don’t get smarter, it soon will be too late for them to learn their lesson