Forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana, defenseman Justin Schultz and goalie Ilya Samsonov will be ready to return for the Washington Capitals when they play at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS).
It will be the first time Washington will have its full roster healthy since a 5-4 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Jan. 19.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said Saturday. “So, it’s nice to say, ‘Yeah, we’ll have options to play who we want and dress the lines the way we want.’ That’s a good thing.”
Kuznetsov and Samsonov each missed eight games since entering NHL COVID-19 protocol Jan. 20. Schultz has missed four games since sustaining facial injuries when he was hit with the puck during a 6-3 win against the New York Islanders on Jan. 28. Oshie (upper body) and Vrana (COVID-19 protocol) each missed one game.
Laviolette left open the possibility that Samsonov could be sent to Hershey of the American Hockey League to play against Lehigh Valley on Sunday to shake off some rust before playing for Washington. But Kuznetsov, Oshie, Vrana and Schultz are expected to play at Pittsburgh.
“We’ve been waiting for this season for a long time and had been excited and then this situation happened,” Kuznetsov said. “So now I’m probably even more excited. But I just have to be patient, I have to be smart and I have to do my job on the is ice first, and don’t try to do too much. There’s not a lot of juice inside me yet, but mentally I’m 100 percent there.”
The Capitals, who have lost three in a row, have been off since a 7-4 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Washington had games postponed against the Flyers on Tuesday and the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and Saturday because those teams have players in the COVID-19 protocol and temporarily shut down their facilities as a precaution.
“I think we’re just focused on our first shifts tomorrow the first period and getting back into the way we know when we’re successful how we play,” Schultz said. “It’s a big game. All these games are big now. So, we’ll be ready to play and it’s exciting everyone’s ready to go.”