Kuznetsov absorbs a hit in Traktor’s season opener against Dynamo. (Photo credit: HC Traktor)

Washington Capitals top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov played all of 30 seconds in his team’s second game of the regular season, a loss to Vityaz Podolsk, 5-3.

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Tom Wilson knocks down Chris Bigras. (Photo credit: Plymouth Whalers)

Washington Capitals first round pick Tom Wilson recently missed three games with what OHL announcers described as a “minor ailment.” Wilson returned Friday night and had a huge impact in Game Five of the Plymouth Whalers’ playoff series against the Owen Sound Attack. In a 5-0 win that gave Wilson’s Whalers a 3-2 series lead, the Ten Train scored a power play goal and picked up six minutes of penalties — two coincidental roughing minors with Gemel Smith and Kurtis Gabriel and an unsportsmanlike conduct minor.

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Photo credit: J Pat Carter

Less than twenty minutes into the contest between the Washington Capitals and the Florida Panthers, the Caps’ big trade deadline acquisition, veteran winger Martin Erat, went awkwardly into the boards courtesy of a reckless shove by hulking young defenseman Eric Gudbranson. A few anxious seconds later, Caps fans were holding their breath as Marty was helped off the ice by his teammates, clearly favoring his right leg. Later on, the team referred to it as a “lower body injury.” Nothing to be happy about, of course, but it could have been so much worse, especially given Erat’s extensive concussion history.

“Wait! What concussion history?,” you may ask, and rightfully so. After all, Marty has been an NHLer for over a decade, and in all that time the Nashville Predators (his team since his debut in 2003) released exactly zero statements mentioning Martin Erat having a concussion. The ubiquitous “upper body injury” appears numerous times, but never a concussion. In fact, a Google search for “Martin Erat concussion” yields references to just one suspected case – an injury Erat suffered during the last World Championship. So, no worries then, right?

But what if someone actually asked Marty? Because someone did.

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Dmitry Orlov sits with the other scratches during Saturday's Bears game

Dima sits with the other Bears scratches during Saturday’s Bears game. (Photo credit: Katie Stansbery)

When Dmitry Orlov came out of the tunnel for the AHL Showcase game last month, he was excited to see fans back at Verizon Center. It was the reason why, in his opinion, he played the best hockey of his season. The AHL gamesheet says that the 21-year-old defenseman recorded two shots on goal that first period, but Dima remembered it being closer to four or five.

Unfortunately, as he confirmed to me on Saturday night during the first intermission of the Bears/Senators game, Orlov suffered an injury after absorbing a hit from Emerson Etem. Due to team policy, Orlov would not reveal the nature or location of his injury.

After spending two weeks recovering, Orlov has begun riding an exercise bike and lifting weights. According to Hershey Bears head coach Mark French, Orlov is close to getting back on the ice for practice again.

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Dmitry Orlov

Photo credit: Jordan Tenenbaum

On December 6th, the Verizon Center hosted the AHL Showcase between the Hershey Bears and Norfolk Admirals. Due to the lockout, it was the first hockey game played in Washington since May 9th, when two current Bears were playing with the Capitals: Braden Holtby and Dmitry Orlov.

While Holtby dominated in the Bears 2-1 victory during the Showcase, Orlov made it through just the first period before leaving the game due to injury. Since then, Orlov has missed ten games– a month’s worth of action. Bears radio announcer and PR man Scott Stuccio told RMNB on Thursday night that the Novokuznetsk-native is not close to returning yet.

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Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

Remember that possible goalie controversy? Well now there’s a new problem in the crease — and it isn’t pretty. After Tomas Vokoun re-injured his groin last week in Boston, the Caps have been forced to rely on Michal Neuvirth and call-up Braden Holtby. That’s not so bad considering Vokoun’s play before the setback. It’s Neuvy who’s hurt now, suffering a possibly devastating leg injury a quarter of the way into the second period Thursday night.

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NHL All-Stars Suffering from Concussions and Head Injuries

Special thanks to Gary Bettman for letting the guys out of the Quiet Room long enough for us to snap this pic. Enlarge. (Photo illustration by Ian Oland)

The stars of the All-Star Game were a little less bright this year. Some of the familiar faces that fans expect were absent for reasons that are becoming all too familiar in the modern NHL: head injury. Approximately 85 head injuries have been reported this year, meaning that nearly ten percent of all active players have been injured. 28 of 30 teams have reported at least one head injury, while some franchises have dealt with as many six or seven. With star center Nicklas Backstrom now sitting out due to concussion, the issue has hit close to home for Caps fans.

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Our favorite beat reporters, Tarik El-Bashier (The Washington Post) and Corey Masisak (hired gun), are on the scene in Montreal, confirming what we feared last night: Joe Corvo and Shaone Morrisonn are not practicing with the team today.

I haven’t gotten a clear message on Corvo’s exit, but Shaone took a nasty swipe to his wrist/hand area in the second period and did not return.  Corvo had a goal in game one, and ShaMo had been playing great hockey so far.  Both will be missed.

Will we see John Erskine and Tyler Sloan tomorrow night?  Can anyone in Hershey catch the red-eye up to Canada?  Please?  Pretty please?

RMNB will keep you posted.

(And by that, we mean we’ll just repeat what someone else said and then put a joke in there.)

Update 12:18 pm Corey Masisak has the scoop on Corvo’s absence:

Twitter - Corey Masisak- Corvo said he's fine - wil ..._1271780274609

Looks like the pirate faction of the Washington Capitals will be represented tomorrow night after all!

Update 2:27 pm Via Tarik we learn that Shaone Morrisonn is expected to play tomorrow as well.  Somewhere, John Erskine and Tyler Sloan are weeping.

In just a few hours, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins will face off for the second-t0-last time ever before the playoffs in a few weeks.  The stakes are not as high as they have been– both teams are sure things for the post-season, D.C.’s win streak has ended, and NBC’s Pierre McGuire won’t be leaving drool streaks on the glass barrier between him and the Pens bench.  Still, any meeting between these two rivals guarantees an exciting game.  Except that one time.  But unfortunately, both squads have modified their lines to accommodate injured players.  And when our hockey heroes cannot play, we must toast their immortal memory in a feature we like to call… Russian Machine Sometimes Breaks!

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Russian Machine Sometimes Breaks: Surfing the Zenith

The period after Christmas and before the break is typically when teams struggle the most.  It’s odd then that Washington Capitals have made January their most winning month.  The last thing any team wants to do is peak too soon, especially before the end of the regular season. After winning seven thunderous games in a row, it’s about time the Caps come back down to Earth and mount another surge for the post-season. To ensure that, here are some injury updates:

  • Jose Theodore skipped the final period of last night’s Islanders game. As per usual, the Caps staff declined to describe the nature Theo’s injury beyond the perfunctory “lower-body injury.” I’ve reviewed the game tape, but I’m unable to ascertain the nature of the injury. As such, Russian Machine has commissioned his (smokin-hot) wife Stéphanie to investigate Jose’s lower body more vigorously.
  • Our spies at Kettler shoe-phoned to inform us that Semyon Varlamov is skating today. Semyon’s lower half has completely failed him since December; we hope his junk is still under warranty. It’s encouraging that Varly is skating, but he is definitely not taking shots. The Olympics now seem unlikely, and our heart aches for Varly. It’d be selfish of us to be glad that Semyon will get more rest before the playoffs when it comes at the cost of such a big personal goal. Therefore, we must hope either that his recovery drastically hastens, or that he’s still a superstar goalie in 2014.
  • As the previous two bullets have made clear, the Capitals now have a full-blown goalie crisis. What a world away we are now from the halcyon “Which awesome goalie shall we play tonight?” days of November. To fill the ranks, the organization has recalled Braden Holtby from the Hershey Bears. It’s one of our distinct pleasures as Caps fans that we get to see promising players from the organization’s stellar farm club. In the last few years, we’ve enjoyed standout performances from Matthieu Perrault, Karl Alzner, Semyon Varlamov, Captain America, and many more. I’m not well educated on the Bears, so I’m spending some time today learning about Braden, and I like what I see (.935 save % on 506 SOG). Let’s just hope he doesn’t hang around D.C. too long.
  • Exchanging a Top Gun high five with Holtby somewhere around York, PA, is Karl Alzner, who has been returned to Hershey’s care. Karl has only an even +/- from his recent four-game stint, but we recall fondly his crucial assist on David Steckel’s GWG. Plus, Karl got to hang out at Casino Night (check out Emily Karol’s terrific story if you haven’t already).
  • Brian Pothier. I don’t really have any news on the dude, but then again I’m not a real journalist. Let’s just assume he’s going to play tonight.
  • He’s not on our team, but Jack Hillen‘s faceblock last night was too monstrous not to mention.  After attempting to catch an Ovechkin slapshot with his teeth, Jack fell to the ice with a bloody, wet thud.  The Islanders report that Hillen broke his jaw and several teeth.  He’ll miss 6-8 weeks, but Quentin Laing has already promised to send over a dandy protein milkshake recipe.  Poor guy.

Tonight’s game against the Anaheim Ducks (24-22-7) begins at 7 PM. Russian Machine has a correspondent on location to document. Will the goalie problems discussed above end the Caps winning streak? Will Braden Holtby submarine some dude at center ice? Will Matt Bradley (whose jersey, it seems, I must now buy) secure a hat trick? Tune in and find out.