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Capitals are hopeful most of their injured players will be back Friday vs. Devils

Capitals are hopeful most of their injured players will be back Friday vs. Devils

ARLINGTON, Va. – A Capitals team that has been unaccustomed to dealing with injuries in recent years suddenly is dealing with a good number of them. Washington returned to practice Wednesday with several key players missing.

The status of players T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Devante Smith-Pelly and Michal Kempny are all up in the air for Friday’s game against the Devils, but head coach Todd Reirden provided updates following practice.

T.J. Oshie

Oshie did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. He was present before the team took the ice, as he stood on the bench in a sweatshirt, shorts and shoes, no skates. He shot a few pucks from the bench toward the net, but left after only a few minutes.

Oshie was injured in Winnipeg on Nov. 14 when Josh Morrissey checked him into the boards and body-slammed him to the ice. It appeared as if Oshie’s head struck the ice which is troubling considering Oshie’s history of concussions.

Reirden had no real concrete update on Oshie, saying only that he had not yet returned to skating.

“Until he gets on the ice, I'm really not going to have any updates on him,” Reirden said.

Evgeny Kuznetsov

Kuznetsov was one of the first players on the ice for practice as he came on to work out the goalies. He was in a non-contact light blue jersey. He did practice with the team but seemed to participate in a limited capacity.

This represents progress for Kuznetsov who first returned to the ice on Monday after taking an elbow to the face, also in the Winnipeg game, but did not skate with the team. As he continues to progress there is hope that he may be ready to return in time for Friday's home game against New Jersey.

“Yeah, we're hoping,” Reirden said. “He has not been cleared yet so today was the first step in him going through a little bit more than just a random skate around. Today was going through some more drills and that's the natural progression. It was nice to see him back out there.”

Devante Smith-Pelly

Smith-Pelly left Monday’s game early after taking a shot in what appeared to be the right ankle. He came onto the ice at about 10 a.m., 30 minutes before practice began, for an individual skate. He left after only a few minutes and did not participate in practice.

The team called Wednesday a maintenance day for Smith-Pelly due to a lower-body injury.

Michal Kempny

Kempny was a surprise absence from Wednesday’s practice. The team also said it was a maintenance day for him for an upper-body injury. He did not participate in practice, but he did skate with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish.

Reirden was hopeful Smith-Pelly and Kempny’s injuries were only short-term and did not close the door on either player returning for Friday’s game.

“I'm hopeful [Thursday] that they'll be on the ice for practice and continue to move forward from there.”

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'It's a deep sigh of relief': With the trade deadline past, it's back to business for the Capitals

'It's a deep sigh of relief': With the trade deadline past, it's back to business for the Capitals

ARLINGTON, Va. -- After taking a 3-0 lead on Tuesday, the Capitals watched as the Winnipeg Jets came storming back to tie the game at 3-3. Suffering from a prolonged slump since the end of December, the game was unfolding into another ugly loss for a team that, despite its talent, just could not seem to find its way. This time, however, the collapse was halted. The Caps did not lay down and managed to battle to a 4-3 shootout win.

While blowing a 3-0 lead is nothing to celebrate, the team showed more resiliency than they have shown for two months and forward Garnet Hathaway knew why.

“It's after the trade deadline,” he said. “The guys in this room are the guys that we're going to win with. So that's the mentality right now, we've got to stick to our guns and play to our identity.”

The trade deadline is a time of uncertainty for many players around the league, many of whom don’t know when they wake up on Monday morning if they will still be playing for the same team by 3 p.m. or suddenly have to uproot themselves and their families.

That uncertainty is not just limited to each individual, it can affect an entire team.

“I think with everybody in here, I would say there's definitely a lot of guys probably have a good feeling, 'OK I'm not going to get traded or I am getting traded,'” center Nic Dowd said. “But I'd say the underlying issue is, I hope they don't bring anybody in that's like myself. That's probably what everyone's kind of looking like. As soon as they see 'Washington Capitals trade for' you're like, 'oh, who is it?' and 'is he my position?'”

“I think that players will very rarely discuss the fact that it's bothering them or they're thinking about it, but they're only human as well,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “I think it's a deep sigh of relief for players and now we're ready to move forward knowing this is our group and this is what we're going with.”

Washington is a team with its sights set on a Stanley Cup. That meant they were a team looking to add. But even with the majority of players knowing they would not be moved, the deadline still brings with it uncertainty; uncertainty over where you stand in the lineup, uncertainty over which teammates will still be around after the deadline, uncertainty over what the team will ultimately look like at 3:01 p.m.

Once the deadline passes, however, that distraction is gone and suddenly a team can regain its focus knowing now is the time to focus on the task at hand.

“Now we know that there isn't anymore moving parts,” Reirden said. “Sure, we're going to have to deal with injuries or any other issues, suspensions or different things that go on. That's hockey. But, for the most part, this is our group that we believe in and we think has a really good chance. It's a different vibe after. I can tell you that for sure.”

“The trade deadline pretty much is just kind of a distraction a little bit for everyone,” defenseman Nick Jensen said. “So once that's kind of out of the way, there's a sense like it's back to focusing on this final stretch before playoffs. Every team, they're set for the rest of the season. Every team's trying to make their push for the playoffs so there's kind of that sense like, here we go. This is it.”

That certainty also brings with it a sense of unity.

Nothing can replace the bonding that happens between teammates over the course of a full 82-game season, but after the trade deadline has passed comes the realization that this is the team. Whatever happens from here to the postseason and beyond is going to happen with the players who are now on the roster.

There are no more reinforcements coming.

“This is our team, this is who we're going with,” Jensen said. “It's time to bear down and put yourself in as best position as possible to compete in the playoffs.”

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Player from Capitals' AHL affiliate discharged from hospital after losing consciousness

Player from Capitals' AHL affiliate discharged from hospital after losing consciousness

Giant Center, then home of Capitals AHL affiliate Hershey Bears, was the site of a scary moment Tuesday night when prospect Kale Kessy dropped the gloves in the second period of their game against the Charlotte Checkers and started fighting with defenseman Derek Sheppard.

Kessy and Sheppard exchanged blows before the Checkers’ defenseman gained the upper hand and landed a knockout punch.

The Bears’ winger hit his head on the ice before he “lost, but regained consciousness on the ice,” according to a statement released by the team. While being wheeled off the ice on a stretcher, he told his teammates, “go win the game.”

Hershey did just that, dominating the Checkers 6-1 behind a hat trick by Virginia native Joe Snively. Kessy was transported to the hospital where he stayed overnight before being discharged the next morning.

“I would like to send my heartfelt thank you to Hershey Bears fans for their thoughts, prayers, and support following my injury last night,” Kessy said in a statement released by the Bears on Wednesday. “Additionally, I’d like to thank our trainers, doctors, EMTs, Bob Goodman, and Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for providing me immediate and exceptional care. I am feeling better today, and I look forward to rejoining my Hershey Bears teammates soon.”

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