Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin, 3 other players out at least 4 games for COVID-19 protocols

The Washington Capitals will be without Alex Ovechkin and three other prominent players for at least the next four games because of COVID-19 protocols, coach Peter Laviolette said.

Ovechkin, a three-time NHL MVP, was placed on the league's unavailable list Wednesday along with No. 1 center Evgeny Kuznetsov, starting goaltender Ilya Samsonov and top-four defenseman Dmitry Orlov.

"We totally understand why the rules are in place, and there's no arguing with that,'' said Laviolette, who's in his first season as Washington's coach. "We knew the rules. We're not sitting here saying that we were uninformed or we weren't aware. We need to do a better job.''

Washington was fined $100,000 for breaking pandemic protocol for the players being in a hotel room together unmasked.

Laviolette said there was a positive test result, which led to contact tracing, and Washington will be forced to ice a patchwork lineup for its home opener Friday night against Buffalo.

In addition to Friday's game, the four Russians are also expected to at least miss games Sunday against the Sabres and Tuesday and Thursday with the New York Islanders. There was no word Thursday whether any of those games were in danger of being postponed, like what happened to the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes already this season.

Teammates said Thursday the protocols were spelled out for them before the season.

"It's not a situation we want to be in, but here we are,'' center Nicklas Backstrom said. "We're a tight group. Every time we're on the road, we see a chance to really connect as a group, but obviously it's a violation.''