Evgeny Kuznetsov joined his teammates for practice on Friday, just two days after leaving Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final with a significant-looking injury.
His status for Game 3 on Saturday, however, remains unclear. Coach Barry Trotz said the star center has not received medical clearance and will be a game-time decision.
The team is slated for a 10 a.m. morning skate on Saturday. It’s possible, if not likely, that Kuznetsov’s status will become apparent at that time.
During the Caps’ optional practice on Friday, Kuznetsov, the postseason’s leader in points with 25, wore his usual red jersey and participated in all of the drills.
Early in the session, he often took his left hand off of his stick before catching a pass. He also did not appear to shoot the puck with 100-percent exertion. As the session wore on, though, he appeared to get more comfortable.
Of course, it was the left side/arm of Kuznetsov that appeared to absorb the brunt of the blow delivered by Vegas’ Brayden McNabb.
“He hasn’t been cleared. He’s day-to-day,” is all Coach Barry Trotz would say. “He’s probably a game-time decision.”
“He’s been pretty durable. He hasn’t missed a lot of games over the course of time.” — Barry Trotz on Evgeny Kuznetsov, who returned to practice Friday and will be a game-time decision for Game 3. #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/t34lk6Yg7g— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) June 1, 2018
Kuznetsov was not permitted to speak to the media. Per team rules, players coming off of injury can talk only after they are cleared.
His teammates weren’t sure of his status, but they were certainly encouraged by what they saw.
“We need everyone at this time of year,” Tom Wilson said. “And he’s a big piece of our team. It was good to see him get out there and feel the puck. I don’t really know what is going to be the call, but it’s good.”
Alex Ovechkin, meanwhile, was a little more bullish on Kuznetsov’s chances of suiting up Saturday.
“He’s one of our top guys and of course it’s very important to see him skating,” the Caps’ captain said. “I’m pretty sure he’s going to be okay tomorrow.”
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