Washington Capitals center Lars Eller told the media on Tuesday that “a lot of thoughts [went] into the decision [to play]” and he was “weighing the pros and cons” of doing so with a new baby due August 8, when the team faces the Philadelphia Flyers in their second round-robin tournament game. That will force him to leave the bubble in Toronto for a few days. However, he said that “I want to be with my team and win another Cup.”
Eller confirmed that he would come back into the bubble after the baby is born and said that he “will have to take a lot of precautions when [he] leave[s].” He knows that he will have to get tested for COVID-19 when he gets back.
On phase three starting this week, Eller said, “it’s been weird,” especially at the beginning, but a sense of normalcy is beginning to creep in. “It’s been adjusting … and now it feels normal,” he added.
When asked whether the rest will benefit the Capitals, the oldest of the 24 teams resuming play, Eller said, “it’s tough to say.” He added that there would be “some advantage” in a typical year, but “I don’t know” in this case. “Whoever can adjust the best” and is the hungriest team will win, he thinks. “We should be as hungry as any other team” since they want to win again, Eller said.
He thinks that this phase is “no doubt this is the riskiest part” of the NHL’s return-to-play plan with players not in a secure area yet and that he wouldn’t be surprised to see more positive tests. The NHL has already had 30 players test positive for COVID-19 as of Monday. The team will be relying on people to be smart at home during phase three.
“I think it’ll take some games to get back to the level [we usually are at mid-season],” Eller said. “It’s going to take some time. … No doubt guys are going to play hard, but the quality” won’t be there in the beginning, as usual, he continued.
Eller is “happy” that as a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference, the Capitals will play three-game round-robin, which starts August 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, before playing in “do-or-die” games.
By Harrison Brown