Capitals lose goalie Samsonov for NHL restart, playoffs

Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov of the Washington Capitals will miss the NHL's entire return from a COVID-19 shutdown with an undisclosed injury, the team announced Saturday (AFP Photo/BRUCE BENNETT)
Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov of the Washington Capitals will miss the NHL's entire return from a COVID-19 shutdown with an undisclosed injury, the team announced Saturday (AFP Photo/BRUCE BENNETT)

Washington (AFP) - Russian rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov will miss the National Hockey League's COVID-19 return and Stanley Cup playoffs with an undisclosed injury, his Washington Capitals team announced Saturday.

The Capitals, who captured the 2018 NHL crown, went 41-20 with eight overtime losses for 90 points, third in the Eastern Conference, before the season was stopped March 12 by the coronavirus pandemic.

Samsonov will not travel with the Capitals to Toronto, the hub city where East teams will resume play in a bubble environment. He will remain in Washington to continue treatment.

"He has made some strides and put together a pretty good run this year, so to be without him is certainly disappointing," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said.

NHL return to play rules forbid disclosing player injury details, but Reirden said Samsonov, 23, had not tested positive for COVID-19.

Samsonov went to Russia after the NHL season was shut down, returning July 2, but he has not taken part in any team practices.

Before the shutdown, Samsonov had gone 16-6-2 this season with a 2.55 goals-against average and a 91.3 save percentage, at times outshining veteran Braden Holtby, who is set to become a free agent after the season.

"He's a player that had a big impact on our team this first year and is going to have a big impact on the team for many years to come," Reirden said.

"But this is what it's all about, making adjustments and adapting to the unpredictable."

The Capitals, ignited by nine-time NHL goal-scoring champion Alexander Ovechkin of Russia, play Tampa Bay, Boston and Philadelphia in a round-robin to determine top-four seedings for the Stanley Cup playoffs while eight other East clubs meet in a play-in series to decide their opening-round foes.