Thursday, September 29, 2022

Capital Outlook week from playoffs clouded by Ovechkin injury

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — Alex Ovechkin did not skate with his Washington Capitals teammates on Tuesday morning, and with the start of the playoffs less than a week away, his position ahead is unclear.

Ovechkin was listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury, and coach Peter Laviollet called his captain a game-time decision to face the New York Islanders in the third to last game of the regular season. But the team is taking extra precautions with the 36-year-old star, and LaViolet clarified when asked if he was optimistic about Ovechkin getting ready for a first-round start.

“I want to say I hope so, but I don’t know,” said LaViolet after Washington’s Morning Skate. “It depends on how things progress with him, so it’s just day to day.”

Ovechkin slipped off Toronto goaltender Eric Kalgren’s stick and slammed him on the left shoulder earlier in the third round after losing in a shootout on Sunday night. As for the Maple Leafs.. he lay on the ice in pain, skated and didn’t come back.

The Russian winger has only lost 24 games due to injury during his 17-year NHL career. He has never missed a playoff game.

“He’s always around, and he’s always playing,” said longtime teammate Niklas Backstrom. “His style of play, you’re going to get injured. But I think mentally he’s so strong. He plays through everything. That’s exactly what he was like as a boy. He Don’t quit the game. And it doesn’t matter how hurt he is. He’s one of those people you can always count on.”

Ovechkin placed Jaromir Jagger third on his career goals list earlier this season and is now behind only Wayne Gretzky and Gordy Howie. He has 50 this season – the ninth time he has done so, tying Gretzky and Mike Bossi for the NHL record.

Durability has helped Ovechkin play 1,274 regular-season and 141 playoff games since making his 2005 debut.

“Sometimes it takes a little bit of luck, but he’s a really strong guy,” LaViolet said. “He hates not playing the game. He hates being out so he wants to be back as soon as possible and we’re going to make sure he’s in a good place to do that.”

With Ovechkin expected to be out, Conor McMichael moves to the left wing in the top row with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson. He hasn’t played since April 10.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to go into the playoffs and prove to the coaches that I’m ready to fill that void when people get injured,” McMichael said. “Ovi, he will be fine. He is a warrior, and he has been out before and it always seems to come back so we are waiting for him to come back – whenever that happens.”

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Follow Associated Press Hockey writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter https://twitter.com/SHowno

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More Associated Press NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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