The Washington Times - March 26, 2012, 11:11AM

Joel Ward was off crutches Friday but still wasn’t available to play for the Washington Capitals on Sunday. By Monday, he was good enough to skate and joined his teammates for practice.

Ward appeared to take a shot off the foot or ankle Thursday in Philadelphia, “somewhere down there,” coach Dale Hunter said over the weekend. He skated on the Caps’ fourth line Monday, his first time on the ice since the Flyers game.


John Erskine was the only player absent, day-to-day with a lower-body injury according to a team spokesman. The big defenseman has not played since Feb. 12 and just once in the past 27 games.

Nicklas Backstrom was on the ice for a full team practice for the first time since Jan. 6 in San Jose. The center, who has been symptom-free for about two weeks, was cleared Saturday for practice participation with no restrictions of any kind. There is still no timetable for his return that the Caps are revealing.

All three goaltenders were on the ice, which could make for some interesting times when Tomas Vokoun is healthy. Michal Neuvirth played well in the shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, and Braden Holtby is 2-0-1 in the past week and coming off a shutout of the Minnesota Wild.

Here are the practice lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Alexander Semin

Marcus Johansson - Jeff Halpern - Keith Aucoin

Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Mike Knuble / Joel Ward

Backstrom (in white) skating as extra