Alex Ovechkin and coach Peter Laviolette played coy, but it appears that the Capitals’ captain is headed toward a return for Game 1 of the postseason. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 pm on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers.
Ovechkin missed the final three games of the regular season with an upper-body injury he suffered last Sunday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He fell shoulder-first hard into the corner boards behind the Toronto net and didn’t return for the remainder of the game.
Yet with the playoffs looming, all signs indicate Ovechkin will be in the lineup for Tuesday.
Ovechkin said he felt, “good,” and when pressed on if he’d play in Game 1, responded, “we’ll see.” He added that he could have played in the team’s final three regular season games were they playoff games.
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Ovechkin, who has never missed a postseason game in his NHL career, scored 50 goals in his 17th NHL season this year. Unsurprisingly, the Capitals totaled four goals in their three final games absent Ovechkin.
He took part in the team’s first of two practices before they head to Florida on Monday afternoon, and took his normal spot at first line left wing. He skated with center Evgeny Kuznetsov and Conor Sheary.
“Right now he's day-to-day,” Laviolette said. “He had a good day today. You guys saw him out there. He didn't shy away from anything, so we hope he keeps moving forward.”
Ovechkin said the last week was regular for him as he worked to get back onto the ice as quickly as possible.
“Obviously he is best goal scorer in the league, and goals are important,” Washington defenseman Dmitry Orlov said. “You can see last three games we didn’t score a lot. For sure we need him as a captain, as a leader, as our goal scorer, so we need everyone, everybody healthy right now so it is good.”
Nothing is certain at the moment, but for now, all signs point toward Ovechkin being in the lineup for Game 1 against the Panthers.