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Andre Burakovsky to begin practicing with team, when will he return to the lineup?

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Andre Burakovsky to begin practicing with team, when will he return to the lineup?

A return for Andre Burakovsky could be coming very, very soon. Though he will not be playing in Monday’s game against the San Jose Sharks, the Swedish winger did participate in the morning skate and said he will practice with the team on Tuesday.

How he feels and looks in practice will determine just how quickly he returns to game action.

“We'll get a couple practices in him and see where he is after that, but he's getting closer,” Barry Trotz said after Monday’s morning skate. “I think his date is next week, early next week is the original date. I think he's on schedule if not ahead of schedule.”

RELATED: WITH BURAKOVSKY AND STEPHENSON OUT, TRAVIS BOYD WILL MAKE HIS NHL DEBUT

Burakovsky has not played since he broke his thumb against the Florida Panthers on Oct. 21. His projected return was mid-December, but he told the media he believes he may be ahead of schedule.

“All the x-rays have been looking really good, it's been healing real proper,” Burakovsky said. “I think we looked into I was maybe going to play in the next week here, but we'll see. We'll see when I'm playing next game, but our timeframe goes into next week.”

While out, Burakovsky has been doing drills on the ice with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish. His return to the lineup, however, will depend on several other factors outside of his conditioning.

“You can skate all you want at ‘Camp Nemo’ and do all the drills, but you've got to be out there with guys moving around,” Trotz said. “It's easy skating in circles in small areas, but he has to make plays when people are trying to hit you. There's a lot going on, you tend to lose all your detail when you're out for a while. Instead of staying on the wall, you just start filtering into the middle. Just systematically, you're not as sharp.”

Cleaning up the details and working on his timing at practice, as well as getting full clearance from the doctors, are the only hurdles left standing between Burakovsky and his return.

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Tuesday and Thursday will provide Burakovsky two opportunities to practice, but it seems optimistic to believe he could return for Friday’s game. More likely, he will be back in the lineup sometime next week when the team will play four games: at the N.Y. Islanders on Monday, home against Colorado on Tuesday, at Boston on Thursday and home against Anaheim on Saturday.

If Burakovsky remains on schedule, chances are we will see him back in the lineup sometime during that stretch.

This marks the second straight season in which a hand injury has taken Burakovsky out of the lineup, something that is not lost on him.

"I really like soft gloves so I'm always bending them a lot before I use them," he said. "I'm probably going to stop doing that now."

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All signs point to T.J. Oshie returning to the Caps' lineup in Dallas

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All signs point to T.J. Oshie returning to the Caps' lineup in Dallas

T.J. Oshie is back.

Almost, anyway.

The Caps’ star winger practiced with his teammates on Monday morning, marking the first time he’s been a full participant in a team setting since getting his head smashed into the boards by San Jose’s Joe Thornton on Dec. 4.

SEE THE LATEST NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Oshie resumed skating on Dec. 10 and has steadily been ramping up his level of intensity since.    

If Oshie receives final clearance from doctors, he’ll suit up in Dallas on Tuesday night. And, as you might expect, he’s pretty excited about the possibility.

“I felt great,” said Oshie, who noted that this was the fourth documented head injury of his career. “They’ve got me in pretty good shape while I’ve been away. I feel ready.”

Although Coach Barry Trotz said a decision on Oshie’s status won’t be made until Tuesday morning, the fact that he took his normal spot on the right side of the second line with Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetsov is a strong indication that he’s expected to face the Stars.

Oshie was also back in his usual spot on the first unit power play, where he still leads the team in goals on the man advantage (7), despite missing six games.

Getting a player with Oshie’s skill set back represents a boost for the Caps, who went 5-1-0 while he was sidelined. But, on the flip side, it also means someone who has been playing well will have to come out of the lineup.

“The whole team is playing pretty good hockey right now,” Oshie said. “On the team side, you feel bad that someone is playing good hockey and they’re going to have to sit out.”

He added: “Hopefully I don’t mess up the mojo, but selfishly I want to get back in there and join in on some of the fun.”

WAS KUZNETSOV TRYING TO SCORE ON HIS GAME-TYING GOAL?

The odd man out on Monday, based on line rushes anyway, was Devante Smith-Pelly, who has not missed a game after winning a spot in training camp.

Here’s what the forward combos looked like at Kettler Capitals Iceplex:

Ovechkin – Backstrom – Wilson
Vrana – Kuznetsov – Oshie
Connolly – Eller – Burakovsky
Stephenson – Beagle – Chiasson

So the plan appears to be for Oshie to bump Chiasson down to the fourth line into Smith-Pelly’s spot. 

With 13 healthy forwards, Trotz said deciding whom will sit out is going to be based on performance and/or role. But that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be an easy choice to make.

“If everybody's playing well,” he said, “I just have to make a tough decision, that’s all.”

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are overcoming all obstacles, even the loss of Oshie

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are overcoming all obstacles, even the loss of Oshie

If you were to make a list of the players the Capitals could not afford to lose, chances are T.J. Oshie would be near the top of that list. Unfortunately, the Caps’ winger has missed the last six games due to an upper-body injury he suffered from a hit to the head by Joe Thornton.

Yet, even with Oshie out of the lineup the past six games, Washington has managed a 5-1-0 record.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Oshie is the undisputed energy leader of the Caps. He was considered so important, in fact, that a team with significant salary cap constraints still elected to re-sign him in the offseason to an eight-year, $46 million deal that carries a $5.75 million cap hit.

Oshie’s injury, however, has not cooled off the red-hot Caps who have now won 11 of their last 14 games. It is still clear the team is missing him—their 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders in which the Caps lacked any energy at all is evidence of that—but the way the team has been able to rally without him is impressive.

If Washington can win five out of six without Oshie, how much better will they be once he gets back into the lineup?

The Caps keep winning and that means they keep climbing in the NHL Power Rankings. See how high they climb in this week’s rankings here.