NHL Buzz: Samsonov could return this weekend for Capitals


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Washington Capitals

Ilya Samsonov could start for the Capitals this weekend for the first time since Jan. 17.

The goalie, who last played in a 4-3 shootout loss at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 17, entered NHL COVID-19 protocol on Jan. 20 and returned to practice Feb. 8. Samsonov said he feels ready after stopping 46 of 52 shots with Hershey of the American Hockey League in a 5-4 overtime loss to Lehigh Valley on Sunday and a 2-1 victory against Binghamton on Wednesday.

“The first game was really hard because game is different than practice, but the second game I feel much better, more conditioning,” Samsonov said Friday. “I feel much, much better.” 

Washington hosts the New York Rangers on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, NBCSWA, MSG, NHL.TV) and hosts the New Jersey Devils on Sunday. Capitals coach Peter Laviolette didn’t commit to playing Samsonov in either game, but it appears likely he will split the back-to-back set with rookie Vitek Vanecek, who has started 12-straight games.

“We’ll talk to the goalies this afternoon and give somebody the plan for tomorrow, but talk to them first,” Laviolette said. “Then, we’ll go from there.”

Samsonov is 1-0-1 with a 3.36 goals-against average and .868 save percentage in two games this season. — Tom Gulitti


New Jersey Devils

Travis Zajac could return to the lineup against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET; MSG+, MSG-B, NHL.TV).

The forward, who spent 19 days in NHL COVID-19 protocol before being removed on Feb. 17, practiced Friday and is two games shy of 1,000 in the NHL. 

“I feel good and I’ve been able to skate the last few days here,” Zajac said. “Today, just being out with the team, I felt real good so there’s a chance for tomorrow.”

New Jersey (6-3-2) has won three straight games, including two since returning after 15 days off because of a pause to comply with NHL COVID-19 protocols. The Devils are scheduled to play at the Washington Capitals on Sunday

“It was great to see [Zajac] out there, he’s feeling well and a decision (on his availability Saturday) is something we’ll discuss later, but there is a chance he will play,” coach Lindy Ruff said. 

Zajac, who last played Jan. 28, has two goals in seven games this season. — Mike G. Morreale

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