At least one of them doesn’t have to do it alone – that’s the benefit for Mike Knuble and Dennis Wideman of being hurt at the same time. The Capitals were without Knuble for Games 4 and 5 of the Rangers series and have been without Wideman since midway through their March 29 game against the Hurricanes, but now the veterans are working out together in the hopes of rejoining the lineup soon.
So while the rest of their teammates grapple with so much time off between rounds, Knuble and Wideman are thankful for it.
"It's great. It’s been a bonus for Dennis and I – it’s like a bye week in the NFL practically," Knuble said Tuesday. "Dennis has been working hard, so we've been working hard together. It was probably getting a little monotonous for him working by himself a lot and stuff, so it’s good to have a partner, I guess. And it’s good for me too – you kinda laugh and commiserate together."
Knuble, who suffered what’s believed to be a right hand injury in Game 3, was not wearing any brace or cast Tuesday and participated in the full practice. The veteran right wing wasn’t assigned to the top line (or any line), but said he’s progressing.
"I've been skating every day, just trying to keep my legs up and stuff," Knuble said. "I'm encouraged by the way things are going and you just do your best to stay with the group and keep up with the pace of play so when you do come back it’s not a huge adjustment."
Knuble admitted saying he was day-to-day was a "terrible" answer, but it’s playoff time and that’s his status for now.
Wideman did not take part in the full practice, instead leaving the ice after about 15 or 20 minutes. Coach Bruce Boudreau said that wasn’t related directly to the defenseman’s right leg hematoma and compartment syndrome.
"His legs are feeling fine, he was a little dizzy today so we [said] get off – or light-headed, not dizzy – and so just to make sure he's fine," Boudreau said.
Also on the injury front, Mike Green – who took a puck to the head in Game 5 – practiced and insisted he was OK. Alexander Semin was the Caps’ only skater who missed practice, with Boudreau saying the winger had the flu.
HOLTBY RECALLED: The Caps on Tuesday recalled goaltender Braden Holtby from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. It’s the first of several “Black Aces” call-ups, done to give Washington some depth and provide some insurance.
"If Hershey isn’t playing anymore and he’s in Western Canada and somebody got hurt on the morning skate, you know, we wouldn’t have anybody to go in," Boudreau said. "Every team has done it through the dawn of time almost in hockey circles because this is who we draw from in case of injuries. The common term is the 'aces' and they come out and you never know, it might be the fourth round that one of them gets in but the longer you go the more chance that they’re going to play."
Boudreau said others are coming. He wouldn't name names but The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., reported forwards Mathieu Perreault and Steve Pinizzotto and Andrew Gordon (when healthy) will be recalled along with defenseman Patrick McNeill.
That group will likely practice separately from the Caps, Boudreau said.
RIGHT WAY FOR OVECHKIN: In Game 5 against the Rangers, Alex Ovechkin shifted over to the right wing on the top line with Brooks Laich and Nicklas Backstrom. The experiment worked, as Ovechkin scored a goal after streaking down the right side of the ice.
Ovechkin said Tuesday he doesn’t feel the difference, and Boudreau wouldn’t say why he made the switch but likes the idea of his superstar – who shoots right-handed – on his forehand.
"It's a little bit of a process making him believe that he can be just as good on the forehand," Boudreau said. "He plays a different style of game; if anything that would be an adjustment for an opposing team because he plays a different game on the right side then the left side."
Whether he’ll be there to start Game 1 of the second round remains to be seen, and likely depends on Knuble’s health.
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