WASHINGTON — The Capitals took a significant step toward restoring their active roster to full strength Wednesday, activating winger T.J. Oshie off Injured Reserve after he missed 11 games with a lower-body injury.
His return comes at a critical juncture for the Capitals, who enter Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers on a four-game winless streak that has knocked them down to seventh in the Metropolitan Division standings. Washington has struggled to produce consistent offense while he’s been on the shelf, particularly on the power play.
“He’s one of our top players, he’s one of our leaders on the team,” head coach Peter Laviolette said at morning skate. “So when that player is not in the lineup…we missed him on the power play, and the question that was just asked, you missed him five-on-five. He plays physical at times. There’s a lot that you miss that he brings to the table.”
Oshie, 35, scored two goals with three assists in nine games to open the season before suffering a non-contact, lower-body injury against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 29. The injury was the latest in a series of ailments that have kept him off the ice in recent years. Last season, he missed 38 games with a broken foot, a back injury and multiple illnesses.
The foot injury originally sidelined him for only 10 games, but he hurt his back trying to play through it in his first game off IR. This time, he expects to stay healthy the rest of the way.
“Our goal was to get myself to a point where I go out and I’m comfortable and I play my normal game,” Oshie said Wednesday morning. “I wouldn’t play tonight if we didn’t think that I was able to come in tonight and then finish the rest of the year and play a normal healthy year. So, a lot of props to the trainers in there. We’ve been doing a lot of work over the last couple weeks. So, it’s been a grind, but ready to rock.”
Oshie was one of seven players on IR for the Capitals. Defenseman Dmitry Orlov (lower body) is eligible to return at any time. He returned to practice last week. After they sent forward Connor McMichael to their AHL affiliate Hershey Bears to open a spot for Oshie, the Capitals would have to make another roster move to clear space for Orlov.
Looking ahead, Tom Wilson (torn ACL) and Beck Malenstyn (finger surgery) are each in the middle of their respective rehabs while fellow forwards Connor Brown (torn ACL) and Carl Hagelin (hip surgery) are out indefinitely. Center Nicklas Backstrom (hip surgery) skated with the team in a non-contact jersey for the second time Wednesday but it's still unclear if he'll play this season.