Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov revealed Thursday that he recently tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time this season.
Kuznetsov, who went two weeks without skating while on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list earlier this month, returned to the Washington lineup Wednesday for Game 3 of the First Round series against the Boston Bruins.
“I was tested positive for coronavirus,” Kuznetsov confirmed. “But I think we should focus on hockey right now. If you want to talk about this, I’ll always be open to free and we will talk end of the year. But right now, I think it’s more important that we keep everything about hockey.”
Kuznetsov was hardly eased into things in his first game in 18 days. Kuznetsov skated 26:41 — second-most among all Washington forwards — while playing primarily on a line with Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie.
Kuznetsov finished with one shot on goal and two shot attempts while winning nine of 20 faceoffs. The Bruins beat the Capitals 3-2 in double overtime to take a two-games-to-one series lead.
“He, like everybody, you start to fatigue a little bit in those circumstances,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “But for the most part, I thought he did a pretty good job.”
Playing big minutes in a double overtime playoff game can be a challenge for even the best-conditioned players. It can be especially daunting for a player with only a handful of practices under his belt after a two-week layoff.
“It’s funny, they said it’s not a lot of people get it twice,” Kuznetsov said of his positive test. “So, it wasn’t easy to be in hockey shape right away after you sit in a house. But, you know, emotions was high and for these type of [playoff] games you always feel extra energy and you’ve been waiting for those type of games and you’ve been always enjoy it.
“Physically it may be a little bit hard today, but I hope I’m going to get better every day. I’m going to skate more and more, and I’m going to get in hockey shape much quicker than usually guys do from the virus.”
Kuznetsov, who turned 29 on Wednesday, also tested positive for COVID-19 in January. At the time, Kuznetsov went nearly three weeks without any physical activity. He acknowledged in February that he dealt with symptoms and that the virus took a lot out of him.
In speaking to reporters Thursday, Kuznetsov sounded more upbeat about continuing to play this series without any lingering effects.
“This time was much better,” he said. “I’ve been there before, so I’ve been focusing on recovering quick and [joining] the team and [playing] hockey.”
Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov was also in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, although he did not test positive. Players can be in the protocol if they are deemed to have been in close contact with an individual who did test positive.