‘Rules are rules’: Ovechkin, Orlov return to ice accepting of protocols that led to 4-game absence

'Rules are rules': Ovechkin, Orlov return accepting of protocols originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Alex Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov were taken off the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol related absence list on Saturday and spoke publicly for the first time since it was found they and two other teammates violated the NHL’s safety protocols.

“It sucks, obviously,” Ovechkin said of missing the last four games. “No one wants to be suspended, no one wants to put yourself in that position. But you know it’s over so you learn from it and move forward.”

Goalie Ilya Samsonov tested positive for coronavirus and in discussions with him and the players, it was found that he had been in a hotel room with Ovechkin, Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov during the team’s season-opening road trip in violation of the NHL’s safety protocols. As a result, all four players were placed on the NHL’s COVID protocol list and were forced to miss a minimum of four games.

The logic of the NHL’s protocols was called into question by fans in the wake of the news. If players could play hockey together, sit on a bench together, share a locker room together and travel together, what was the big deal in hanging out in a hotel room together?

But the NHL took a hard stance and for good reason. While Samsonov was positive for coronavirus, it had not spread to the team. By being in his hotel room, his teammates exposed themselves thus risking a larger outbreak within the team.

“It is a situation when rules are rules, right?” Ovechkin said when asked if he agreed with the NHL’s protocols. “You can see all the names up there who don’t try to do bad decisions, but if you make mistake, it cost you a couple of games.”

“We spend the time in our room together and we kind of break the protocol,” Orlov said. “So it’s bad that way. The League and team make the right decision. Nobody gets sick. So we, unfortunately, did not the right thing and that’s why we were put in quarantine.”

Despite missing four key players, however, the Capitals played extremely well earning seven out of a possible eight points including two wins against the New York Islanders who eliminated Washington in the 2020 playoffs.

“It was a great response by teammates and by team, obviously,” Ovechkin said. “We got points and that is the most important thing. Obviously happy for the guys who had the opportunity to step up and play well and it was fun to watch.”

Both players are a game-time decision for Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington). Saturday was their first opportunity to get back onto the ice since first being placed on the COVID protocol list.

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Ovechkin practiced on the second line with T.J. Oshie and Richard Panik during the morning skate and also practiced on the power play. He said that, if called upon, he would be ready to go.

“Yeah, I have my bye week already so I feel pretty rest and ready to go,” he said. “Obviously I don’t have lots of time to spend on the ice but I did some workouts in my gym and did some running so try to do the max that I could do.”

Orlov was not among the top three pairs during the morning skate and sounded much less hopeful of playing Saturday.

“I think I’ll talk to the coaches, but when you don’t skate 10 days, it’s always hard to come back,” Orlov said, “Especially [because] everybody keep playing and are in good shape. But you do some workouts with the bike and I have in my house synthetic ice. I try to skate there, but it’s still different. It’s not like you play the game. I just skate today and I wish I feel better, but it is what it is right now.”

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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