The Washington Capitals will not have Lars Eller available to them tonight, as the veteran center has been placed in the COVID protocol. Eller was absent from practice earlier today and listed as questionable, but it’s clear now that he will not play.
The team has not confirmed whether or not Eller has actually tested positive for coronavirus, meaning his length of absence is unclear at this point. After the team takes on the Anaheim Ducks tonight, they are set to travel to Los Angeles, San Jose, and Seattle before returning to Washington. A positive test with symptoms would cause Eller to be held out for a minimum of ten days, ruling him out for the next several games.
Still perhaps unheralded, despite winning a Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018, Eller is one of the most consistent two-way players on the entire roster. In 15 games this season, all of them without Nicklas Backstrom who has been on injured reserve, Eller has eight points and is averaging more than 17 minutes of ice time. His 119 faceoff wins ties him with Evgeny Kuznetsov for the team lead, with those two carrying the load in the middle of the ice.
Though just one of his points is a goal, it’s easy to bet on Eller’s eventual scoring production. Since his rookie year, when he posted just seven goals in 77 games, Eller has registered at least 12 in every season he has played in at least 47 games. He produced a career-best offensive season with 16 goals and 39 points in just 69 games during the 2019-20 season, and actually was on pace for even better numbers had 2020-21 been a full 82-game schedule.
Without Eller, Backstrom, or Nic Dowd, the team had rookie Connor McMichael in the second-line center position at practice today, with Garrett Pilon and Aliaksei Protas in the third and fourth spots respectively. That’s an extremely young, inexperienced group, meaning the team will have to lean even more heavily on Evgeny Kuznetsov.