Joel Ward skated with his Washington Capitals teammates Thursday but is still not ready to return to game action because of a bruised left knee.
“It felt better today,” said Ward, who missed his eighth straight game Thursday night. “It was good to just get on the ice a little bit and put my gear on. It was just good to be out there again. But it was definitely a positive day, for sure. It’s been a while now since I got a chance to put on the gear and actually somewhat participate in practice.”
Ward blocked a shot from Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Sami Salo on April 7 and hasn’t played since. Coach Adam Oates did not rule him out for Saturday’s regular-season finale but said Ward could use a couple of real practices before he’s in the lineup.
“It’s been day-to-day, I’d say more like hour-to-hour,” Ward said. “I’ve just been getting better and better and just before I go to bed I try to say a prayer and hopefully I get a miracle wake-up call.”
The Caps have the luxury of already wrapping up the Southeast Division and clinching a playoff spot, so they don’t have to rush Ward back.
“Exactly,” Oates said. “We’d love to get him in, but he’s got to be 100 percent.”
The 32-year-old right wing will likely have to get his conditioning ramped up before he’s able to return.
“It’s going to play a part for sure,” Ward said. “[But] I was kind of feeling good prior to I got hurt there. I think it’s more so mentally. I think physically you’ll get back in there quickly, I would think.”