T.J. Oshie

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T.J. Oshie says he was held out of the lineup longer than he wanted to be as a precaution

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T.J. Oshie says he was held out of the lineup longer than he wanted to be as a precaution

On Nov. 14, T.J. Oshie suffered a concussion on a hit from Josh Morrissey. The concussion sidelined him for nearly a month. He finally returned to the lineup Tuesday for a game against the Detroit Red Wings, but it sounds like he was medically cleared to return sooner.

During the team’s morning skate on Tuesday, Oshie revealed he had wanted to return a week sooner, but had actually been held out as a precaution.

“I've been good now for about a week and a half,” he said. “This is the longest [concussion] I've sat out. I wanted to play last week. We were pretty careful about it, and the guys that were in the lineup did an outstanding job of allowing them to give me that rest.”

This was the fifth documented concussion of Oshie’s career. While there is still much we do not know or fully understand about concussions and their effects on the brain, it certainly appears as if the severity of a concussion and concussion symptoms can worsen with successive injuries. As a result, the team’s medical personnel took no chances when it came to Oshie and held him out of play even after he was medically cleared to return.

“I felt good so what we did paid off,” Oshie said following Tuesday’s game. “It was an open conversation, a bunch of conversations between me and [Jason Serbus] our head medical trainer and really all our whole team of doctors. We went through it day by day. As it lingered on it was a couple of days by a couple of days and once I started feeling good they let me go. We took it slow and I got a week in of bag skates so legs-wise I felt pretty good out there. That was kind of the process for me.”

Oshie admitted there had been times in the past he thought he was ready to return, but it was clear after returning he had not fully recovered which could have been a factor in the team’s decision to be extra cautious.

“Every concussion's different. This one was different than all the last ones. It's really just not coming back until you're ready. I've had some where you think you're ready to play and you're pretty sure, maybe not 100 percent sure, and then a couple games in you get hit or your head hits something or whatever it is and you don't have a concussion but you have a headache now every time you get hit for sometimes a month or so.”

Oshie suffered a concussion last year after a hit from San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton. He returned to game action 15 days later, but did not look quite right initially and registered only a single point in his first seven games after returning.

If you believe the team’s decision to hold Oshie out had anything to do with that, however, Oshie disputes that notion.

“Last year I don't think I came back too quick,” he said. “I wasn't able to find ways to score, really. I was missing some passes that I normally don't miss. Everyone kind of jumps on the goal-scoring drought stuff, but I felt like I was doing a lot of good things away from the puck. I was keeping the puck out of our net and I was creating chances for teammates to score. It was a learning experience, but I felt like I was 100 percent when I came back last time.”

But why was it even necessary for the team to hold Oshie back? With his repeated history of concussions, not to mention his family’s history with Alzheimer’s, it may be surprising to some that Oshie had hoped to return earlier or that he wanted to return at all.

While the long-term effects of repeated concussions are still being studied and debated within the medical community, it is not a stretch to believe that repeated blows to the head can be detrimental to one’s health.

Oshie was asked if he felt concerned after suffering repeated concussions. His answer? “Not really.”

“I feel like when I go out there, if I get concerned about what's going to happen to me, I'm not going to play at the top of my game,” Oshie said. “Doesn't really concern me. I just kind of roll with the punches every day and if it does, it does. Hopefully it doesn't.”

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T.J. Oshie a game-time decision, but will almost certainly be in the lineup against the Red Wings

T.J. Oshie a game-time decision, but will almost certainly be in the lineup against the Red Wings

The Capitals return home after a three-game road swing to host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Washington). Caps fans may not get to see Tom Wilson, who will be out with an upper-body injury, but there are still plenty of things to watch as the Caps try to improve to 2-0 against Detroit this season.

Here are four things to watch on Tuesday.

Oshie is back

Todd Reirden called T.J. Oshie a game-time decision, but he certainly looked and was treated like a player who would be in the lineup for Tuesday’s game. Oshie – who has been out with a concussion since Nov. 14 – will be back in the lineup on Tuesday just one day after returning to practice. But he is not going to be eased back in. Oshie moves right to the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and also back onto the top unit of the power play.

Oshie suffered a concussion last season after a hit from San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton and really seemed to struggle when he got back into the lineup. He was asked on Monday what he learned from that experience that can prepare him for what he will face on Tuesday.

“You expect the game to feel a little fast when you get back,” Oshie said. “You expect your game shape to not be there, the reads and the maximal effort that you get in battles and back-checking situations or even forechecking situations. It's just hard to simulate that when you're out there skating around cones and stopping on lines.”

With Oshie back in, here is what the lines looked like at Tuesday’s morning skate:

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson – Lars Eller – Devante Smith-Pelly
Travis Boyd – Nic Dowd – Dmitrij Jaskin

Forward Andre Burakovsky is a surprise scratch for the game. Points have been hard to come by for the 23-year-old forward who has just five goals and eight points in 29 games.

How does Bowey look?

Madison Bowey had to be helped off the ice during morning skate and was not putting any weight on his left leg. He slowly made his way off the ice and to the locker room, but returned soon after and jumped right back into the drills. I spoke to him after the skate and he said he took a shot off the inside of his leg, but he was fine and would be good to go for the game.

The team also did not seem concerned as Jonas Siegenthaler stayed on the ice after the skate to get extra work with the scratches. It certainly appears like Bowey is fine, but he may feel differently while trying to keep up with a speedy Red Wings team. How he plays and how that left leg looks is certainly something that bears watching.

Power boost

The Caps’ power play unit was so dominant to start the season, but it has gone cold recently and now it has fallen all the way to seventh in the NHL. Washington has not scored a power play goal in three straight games and has only three goals in its last 24 opportunities (12.5-percent).

The return of Oshie should provide a boost to that unit as Todd Reirden mentioned on Monday.

“He's a special player in all aspects of the game, but certainly in the power play for us in that diamond spot,” Reirden said. “He does a really good job on the entries in terms of controlled entries. When we do have to dump pucks in, he's great on recoveries. His work ethic and instincts to be able to win puck battles, I just think in increases our whole intensity of the way our power play recovers pucks and then obviously his ability to get open and just create spots for Nick or Evgeny to find him in that diamond area as we call it for the ability to finish from the middle of the ice there.”

Familiar foes

Detroit and Washington last met on Nov. 23, a game that resulted in a 3-1 win for the Caps. What was rapidly turning into a lackluster performance was saved by Wilson who scored in the second period to tie the game at 1. Wilson also added an assist in the third period. 

The Caps were outshot 32-20, but Braden Holtby turned in a strong performance to keep Detroit out of the net for the final two periods of the game.

The Red Wings will be playing the second leg of a back-to-back Tuesday meaning Washington is likely to see Jonathan Bernier in net again – just as they did on Nov. 23 – after Jimmy Howard started on Monday. Bernier could only save 17 of the 20 shots he faced, but he won’t have to worry about Wilson on Tuesday.

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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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