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Ovechkin looked good on Day 1 of camp, and Trotz is pleased about that

Ovechkin looked good on Day 1 of camp, and Trotz is pleased about that

Alex Ovechkin’s commitment to boosting his conditioning this summer did not go unnoticed by Capitals Coach Barry Trotz on Day 1 of training camp.

“To me,” Trotz said Friday afternoon, “he looked like it was easier for him. It was easier for him. When guys are going through that skate test, I can tell which guys are going to struggle with it and which guys aren't.”

Although Ovechkin told reporters that his weight is about the same as it was following the Caps' playoff ouster in May, Trotz acknowledged that the burly Russian’s fitness did indeed appear to be improved.

“Body composition, that’s probably the best way to say it than weight,” Trotz said of Ovechkin, who is still listed at 6-3, 239 pounds on the roster. “He’s gotten some of that gigantic strength and exceptional strength that he’s known for, he’s got some of that back. And that changes his body composition.”

Trotz added: “The weight is not necessarily [about] that, it’s more, are you fit? Are you a good athlete? Are you ready to go? I think he’s made a lot stronger commitment there, so that’s great.”

Over the summer, Trotz went to Russia to visit his son. While he was there, he met up with Ovechkin so that the two could talk about last season and what he wanted to see from Ovechkin going forward.

“I wanted to meet with him because he is the captain,” Trotz said. “I wanted to talk about last year because we really didn’t talk about it that much at the end of the year. We talked about a few things. One of the things was becoming an athlete again because that’s important in this business, especially with the way the game is going. It’s fast. You’ve got to be fit in this game to be productive. Some guys can get away with it [thanks to] a high skill set and a level. But at the end of the day, your foundation has to be fitness.”

Since arriving in Washington last month, Ovechkin has often been spotted around Kettler Capitals Iceplex with his personal trainer in tow. While Ovi didn’t divulge many specifics about his offseason training, the three-time league MVP said he did less weight lifting and added more running to his daily routine.

“This offseason my goal was just to feel very good on the ice, my breathing, so I can play longer, stay on the ice a little bit longer,” Ovechkin told CSN. “Be more faster, move a little bit faster.”

One of the challenges Ovechkin faces as he ages—he turns 32 on Sunday—is keeping up in a game that seemingly gets younger and faster every year.

“Right now,” he said, “I feel very good.”

Trotz, too, feels very good about what he’s seen so far from the Capitals’ captain, who’s looking to bounce back from his lowest goal output (33) in a non-lockout year since 2010-11.

“You always ask players to evolve [and] what can you add to your game that you haven’t added?” Trotz said. “In his case, the game is getting quick and he wants to stay relevant in the quickness aspect.”

RELATED: WHY BRADEN HOLTBY IS THE CAPS' MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER

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

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USA TODAY Sports

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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USA TODAY Sports

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.