Capitals forward Anthony Mantha took a step toward recovering from his shoulder injury Wednesday, hitting the ice for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery Nov. 5.
It was a welcomed sight for Washington, which has been without its top-six right winger for the last 38 games. However, Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette appeared on 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies early Wednesday morning and said Mantha still had a ways to go before he would be cleared to return to the lineup.
“We hope to see him this month out on the ice but then from there I think it will still be a little bit of a process,” Laviolette said. “So when he does step on the ice I think we just gotta not get too excited about the fact that you see him out on the ice. That would be a first step in a tough injury that he had and a long road back and so it’s gonna be a little bit.
“I do think that there’s a chance that we’ll see him on the ice at some point here in February and my guess is yes, we would see him back before we play our first playoff game.”
The Capitals still have another 10 weeks left in the regular season, so Mantha should have plenty of time to progress in his rehab. Yet the playoffs are no guarantee given their recent play. The Capitals are 5-8-2 since the new year began, falling to fourth in the Metropolitan Division with 59 points on the season.
Washington will have to climb back up the standings without the help of Mantha. But if the team does hang around long enough to lock up a playoff spot, the Capitals are hopeful he will be ready to provide them with some reinforcements.