The Washington Times - November 11, 2009, 11:39AM

The Caps are done with their morning skate here at Kettler. Alexander Semin, Jeff Schultz and Boyd Gordon all went through the workout. Alex Ovechkin came out on the ice near the end and stayed out the guys who will not play tonight (Schultz, Gordon, Tyler Sloan).

Bruce Boudreau joked that Ovechkin was operating at 72 percent capacity, but did seriously acknowledge that he is getting pretty close to returning.

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“All I can tell you is you can see improvement every day,” Boudreau said. “If he keeps improving, and let’s say he’s a t 70 percent (right now), then it isn’t going to be too long before he’s in the lineup.”

Boudreau said Ovechkin may join his teammates for practice tomorrow, but in a different color. He also didn’t rule him out for this weekend (games Friday against Minnesota and Saturday at New Jersey).

“We still don’t want to take a chance while he’s getting better,” Boudreau said. “A kid on my boy’s team got back from a broken collarbone and said he was OK to skate. Well, he fell into the boards and re-broke his collarbone and now he’s out until after Christmas. We don’t want the same situation happening.”

So when can we expect No. 8 to be back? Well, I have to imagine he’s going to have to complete a full-contact practice (if not two) before they let him play again. It’s hard to imagine the Caps letting the Face Of The Franchise on the ice against enemy combatants without first letting him take contact from friendly combatants, no?

If that’s the case, then him participating tomorrow in a differnt-colored sweater would probably rule him out for Minnesota and New Jersey. The Caps are taking Sunday off and then practicing Monday at the Rock before Tuesday’s game at Madison Square Garden. Maybe Ovechkin plays at MSG if he practices on Monday, but the favorite at this point probably has to be Friday at home against Montreal — but don’t rule a grand return at MSG just yet.