ARLINGTON, Va. — Washington Capitals winger Carl Hagelin is expected to miss an extended period of time with what the team is calling a serious eye injury.
Hagelin was struck in the left eye with an errant stick during practice Tuesday. General manager Brian MacLellan said the 33-year-old Swede had surgery Tuesday night and is meeting with doctors about what’s next.
“Any time you have an eye injury, there’s a concern,” coach Peter Laviolette said after practice Wednesday. “First and foremost there’s a concern for him and just his well-being. It’s unfortunate when something like that happens.”
On the ice, Hagelin is one of Washington’s best penalty killers and has been a valuable part of a line alongside Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway that has played against opponents’ top offensive performers since the start of last season. The immediate worry is about Hagelin’s future off the ice.
“The vision part is the biggest concern,” MacLellan said. “We were really worried last night. I don’t know, it’s sort of positive news that the examination went in the right direction. But it’s still to be determined on what the next steps are and what effect it’ll have on him.”
Forward Joe Snively is also considered week to week with an upper-body injury. Goaltender Ilya Samsonov is being evaluated after taking a shot up high in practice and leaving the ice. MacLellan did not have an update on Samsonov’s status.
The injuries are more blows for a team that has lost three in a row and six of nine. After beginning 2022 tied atop the NHL standings, the Capitals have lost 14 of their past 22 games, including six in a row at home.
“We’ve got to find a way,” winger Conor Sheary said after the latest defeat Monday to Toronto. “We know we have the answers in the room and we’ve just got to find a way to string a couple wins together.”
One reinforcement could be coming in the form of top-six winger Anthony Mantha, who has missed the past four months recovering from surgery on his left shoulder. Laviolette did not rule out Mantha playing Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes but did not confirm if it was a realistic possibility.
“He’s looking better every day,” Laviolette said of Mantha. “He’s had another good practice and he’s looked really strong out there.”
MacLellan said Mantha’s availability would be up to trainer Jason Serbus and doctor John Klimkiewicz, who performed the surgery in early November.
Mantha’s return is one boost ahead of the March 21 trade deadline, but the scuffling Capitals could still look to add another forward along with a veteran goaltender.
The Capitals currently hold the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and remain on pace to make the playoffs barring a major collapse down the stretch and an improbable run by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Because of their situation and recent trends, MacLellan does not expect to be as aggressive as in previous years because he believes they are not as close to being a Stanley Cup contender as it appeared earlier this season.
“It really has to make sense,” MacLellan said. “At the beginning of the year, I would say we’re legit contender. … Now I’d say that we’re at the low level of that next level of (contending) teams. And we need to improve. We need to get back to where we were.”