With a week off between games, the Capitals had the weekend off. That time appeared beneficial for the injured players as Anthony Mantha, T.J. Oshie, Justin Schultz and Vitek Vanecek were all on the ice when the team returned to practice on Monday. This marks the first time all season the team was able to have its full roster on the ice.
Mantha was in a non-contact jersey. The other three players were regular participants, though they have not yet been medically cleared yet.
"I think all year it’s been guys in and out of the lineup and we haven’t really played with our full lineup yet this year," Nicklas Backstrom said. "I mean it's nice to see.”
"I think guys are happy to see their teammates out there," head coach Peter Laviolette said. "Some guys have had it tough, certainly Mantha being out for so long. When Backy came back that was a real boost just to see a good player and your teammate back on the ice."
Monday was Mantha's first practice since November. He has been on long-term injured reserve after undergoing shoulder surgery and has been limited to just 10 games this season.
Oshie has dealt with numerous injuries this season that have limited him to 18 games. He has played only twice in 2022 and suffered an upper-body injury on Jan. 15 against the New York Islanders after playing just 1:46.
"We miss him a lot," Backstrom said of Oshie. "I mean, he’s a key player for this team and always high energy. So I mean we missed him and look forward for him to get back in.”
Schultz left the game on Feb. 15 against the Nashville Predators with an upper-body injury and missed the following game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Vanecek has been out with an upper-body injury since Feb. 1 after a collision with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Kasperi Kapanen. It interrupted a hot-streak for the netminder as, in 2022, Vanecek has gone 4-2-0 with a .925 save percentage and 2.11 GAA. He was just starting to take hold of the starting job between the pipes when he was injured.
Since the injury, Ilya Samsonov has carried a bulk of the load playing seven games with a .917 save percentage and 3.03 GAA, doing just enough to put himself back in contention for the starting job when Vanecek is able to return.
While it is always good to get injured players back, seeing so many players return at once could provide a boost to a scuffling Caps team. Though Washington won three out of four before their weekend off, they remain under .500 in 2022 with an 8-9-2 record including five straight losses at home.
"You get a lot of guys, four or five guys that have been not around for at least a few days, some a lot longer than that, and you get them back on the ice, that's a boost," Laviolette said.
While the return of all four players to practice was a step in the right direction, their status going forward is still undetermined. Laviolette had no updates as to the availability of any of the players for Thursday's game against the New York Rangers other than to say that Mantha would not play.
"We're still not there," Laviolette said. "There's still a lot of question marks out there, but it was nice to get everybody out there and practice."