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Ovechkin injury clouds Capitals’ outlook week from playoffs

ovechkin injury

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: Alex Ovechkin #8 (L) of the Washington Capitals waves while standing next to owner Ted Leonsis during a ceremony honoring him for becoming third all time in goals scored in the NHL before the start of the Capitals and New York Islanders at Capital One Arena on April 26, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin missed a game because of injury for just the 25th time in his 17-year NHL career.

All of those have come in the regular season. He has never missed one in the playoffs.

Ovechkin was ruled out of the Washington Capitals’ game Tuesday night against the New York Islanders, and his status moving forward is unclear with the start of the first round less than a week away.

The 36-year-old star did not skate with teammates earlier in the day and is listed as day to day with an upper-body injury. Despite calling him a game-time decision, coach Peter Laviolette voiced some uncertainty when asked if he was at least optimistic about Ovechkin being ready for the start of the first round.

“I want to say I hope so, but I don’t know,” Laviolette said. “It depends on how things progress with him, so it’s day to day right now.”

Ovechkin tripped over Toronto goaltender Erik Kallgren’s stick and slammed into the boards left shoulder first early in the third period Sunday night in a shootout loss to the Maple Leafs. He lay on the ice in pain, skated off and did not return.

The Russian winger has only missed 44 games for any reason since making debut in 2005.

“He’s always around, and he’s always playing,” longtime teammate Nicklas Backstrom said. “His style of play, you’re going to get injured. But I just think mentally he’s so strong. He plays through everything. It’s just the way he is as a guy. He doesn’t miss games. And it doesn’t matter how hurt he is. He’s one of those guys you can always count on.”

Ovechkin earlier this season passed Jaromir Jagr for third on the career goals list and now trails only Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howie. He has 50 this season — the ninth time he has done that, tying Gretzky and Mike Bossy for the NHL record.

Durability has helped Ovechkin play 1,274 regular-season and 141 playoff games.

“Sometimes there’s got to be a little bit of luck to it, but he’s a really strong guy,” Laviolette said. “He hates not playing the game. He hates being out so he’s going to want to be back as soon as possible and we’re going to make sure that he’s in a good spot to do that.”

With Ovechkin expected to be out, Connor McMichael stepped into the top line left wing spot alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson. It was his first game since April 10.

“It’s a huge opportunity for me to prove myself going into the playoffs and kind of prove to the coaches that when guys do get hurt that I am ready to fill that void,” McMichael said. “Ovi, he will be OK. He is a warrior, and he’s been out before and he seems to always come back so we are looking forward to having him back — whenever that is.”