Alex Ovechkin’s timetable to return to the lineup for the Washington Capitals remains unclear, but all signs at practice Monday point to sooner rather than later.
Ovechkin was on the ice in a noncontact jersey with his teammates near the end of their practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, and then he came back out for a short solo session with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish.
“I wish it was going to be tomorrow, but I need to make sure I’m good and my body feels good,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t know - probably a week. We’ll see.”
Added general manager George McPhee: “He’s doing well, and as we said, it will be week-to-week. We weren’t sure if he could play last weekend, and we’ll see if he can play this weekend. He’s that close, but we’ll be smart about it.”
Ovechkin has missed the team’s past three games with an upper-body strain near his left shoulder. He practiced Thursday in Sunrise, Fla., but did not return to the ice until Monday. While he stopped using a stick midway through his workout and had little use of his left arm in South Florida, Ovechkin made some progress Monday in Arlington.
He was skating with his stick in his left hand and was able to test out some more strenuous maneuvers.
“It was no pain,” Ovechkin said. “It was easy shots - it was not hard. I don’t want to rush my body to make some real hard slap shots or wrist shots. I’m just getting used to it.”
An interview with Ovechkin conducted by Sovetsky Sport’s Dmitry Chesnokov published Sunday by Yahoo Sports included a suggestion by the two-time league MVP that he could be out four to five weeks with the injury.
The team released a statement that “questioned the validity of the report” later that day, and Ovechkin said Monday he was “joking.”
“No, it is not [four to five weeks],” McPhee said when asked about the interview. “Nothing has changed. We said it was week-to-week. We thought it might be one, it might be two. If it is a little more than that, it is acceptable. It is not going to be four to five weeks.”
Nylander move coming?
Michael Nylander cleared waivers Monday, but he did not rejoin the team, and his time as a member of the club may be coming to an end.
The 37-year-old center has not played for the Caps this season. By clearing waivers, Nylander can be moved to another team, provided he consents. He has a no-movement clause in his contract, but he has agreed to a conditioning stint with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League and to be placed on waivers.
“We’re still exploring our options,” McPhee said. “Some things are going on, and I’d rather see what develops, and then we can talk about it tomorrow. I would expect that we would have something to talk about tomorrow.”
Those options include loaning Nylander to a team in Europe, sending him to Hershey or trading him to another NHL club. Nylander’s salary cap figure this season is $4.875 million, and any of those three moves would take his cap hit away and give Washington some much-needed relief.
Nylander had been practicing with the team before going to Grand Rapids, but when asked whether the Swedish center was going to rejoin the team if he isn’t moved, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said, “I don’t think so.”
Mike Green missed Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury, but he practiced with the team and pronounced himself ready to play Wednesday against the New York Islanders. He was hurt Friday night when he hit Florida’s Rostislav Olesz in the first period.
Alexander Semin left practice early, but Boudreau expects him back Tuesday. McPhee said he was banged up Friday (Florida’s Keith Ballard nailed him with a big hit as he was winding up to shoot) but “toughed it out” Saturday. Boudreau said Semin was still sore, so he was excused.
Boyd Gordon went through his first full practice with the team since he last played for the Caps on Oct. 12. Gordon has missed 11 games with a back injury, and Boudreau said he needs a few more hard practices before being ready to return.
Jeff Schultz did not practice after missing Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury, but Boudreau expects him to be on the ice Tuesday.