The Washington Times - April 12, 2012, 11:33AM

BOSTON | Thursday’s morning skate at TD Garden was optional for the Washington Capitals, and captain Alex Ovechkin elected not to participate. He was one of just two skaters not on the ice, not surprising given his reputation for skipping morning skates.

Jay Beagle’s absences made less sense. The center who Dale Hunter once said “works too hard” is known for staying out on the ice for extra time, even when he’s in the lineup and getting quality minutes.

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Beagle, once an afterthought as a fourth-liner and healthy scratch, has routinely played 15-plus minutes under Hunter, growing into a checking line presence.

Coach Dale Hunter downplayed Beagle’s surprising absence.

“He’s fine,” Hunter said. “He just did the option. That’s all.”

Mike Knuble did not stay out for extra work with the rest of the healthy scratches: Cody Eakin, Jeff Halpern, Mattias Sjogren and Dmitry Orlov. Knuble is expected to take part in warm-ups in case Beagle cannot go, though Hunter would not confirm that.

“We don’t know yet for sure,” said Hunter, whose post-skate press conference lasted just over two minutes.

Michal Neuvirth took part in extra work with Dany Sabourin and the scratches after the morning skate. The Caps’ two practice goalies were starter Braden Holtby and Sabourin.

With Orlov out, Jeff Schultz steps back into the Caps’ lineup. It will be his first game since March 27 vs. Buffalo.

The Caps did not do line rushes Thursday morning.