Few people could have watched New Jersey Devils captain Bryce Salvador land on the twisted left leg of Washington Capitals forward Mikhail Grabovski during a Jan. 24 game and think good things, but the extent of the injury surely has gone further than expected. It has now been three days since the injury occurred, and Grabovski has missed one game, decided not to travel with the Capitals to their next game against the Buffalo Sabres and has reportedly been walking with a noticeable limp.
The result of this obviously poor prognosis is that a stagnating Washington team has been thrown a twist they may not be able to handle going forward. This is because Grabovski is not only the Capitals’ third-highest scorer with 33 points, but he’s their third-highest scorer and a rock on the second line who cannot be replaced by anyone else on the roster.
Sure, Brooks Laich and Martin Erat may both be solid hockey players, but neither is a reasonable asset on the second line in Washington at this point.
Laich has only posted greater than 50 points in two of his seven full seasons and is truly more of a grinder in nature than a second line center who provides secondary scoring. To think that he would miraculously jump from eight points in 38 games during the current season to anywhere approaching .50 points per game would be foolish on the part of Capitals head coach Adam Oates and would surely result in a reduction from the team’s 2.9 goals per game total.
Meanwhile, it has been utterly clear that Erat is not rated very highly by Oates as he has repeatedly been a healthy scratch and even asked for a trade twice. To think that these demands are going anywhere soon would be foolish at best, and even if motivated to prove Oates wrong, it is doubtful Erat would provide anywhere near the impact of Grabovski after being utilized as a second rate player all season. Say what you want about him being a professional athlete, but practicing and playing 14:08 per game and then moving to 18 to 19 minutes per game is no easy task.
So in the end, after watching the Capitals lose seven out of their last eight games it appears things could only be getting worse. This is because they do not know how long their second line center will be out for, and in turn they will be losing a guy who plays vital minutes, provides on the power play and truly does not have a great backup plan in place. For a team that now sits 13th in the Eastern Conference this is surely a negative and could turn the team’s season sour.