The Washington Capitals wrapped up their last practice this afternoon before the all-star break, and while Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johhansson were not on the ice at KCI so they could gain some valuable rest, ailing forwards Matt Bradley and Alexander Semin did participate.
Bradley looked especially fit during practice as he initiated contact along the boards, perhaps an indication he would be ready for tomorrow night's game at Atlanta, the team's last before the break. Expected to make the trip to Atlanta, Bradley skated with the team yesterday for the first time since breaking his finger Dec. 21 against the New Jersey Devils. He has missed 14 games because of the injury.
Semin, meantime, was among the first players to come onto the ice for the approximately hour-long practice the morning after Washington's 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Rangers at Verizon Center. The left wing remains Washington's second leading goal scorer (18) despite having not played since Jan. 8 with a lower body injury and not scoring since Nov. 28.
Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau had said both players probably wouldn't be back until after the all-star game on Sunday, but he was noncommittal when asked if they would accompany the team to Atlanta.
"They might," he said.
Also absent were forward Eric Fehr, defenseman Tom Poti and goalie Michal Neuvirth, who has a lower body injury that forced him from the Capitals' 3-2 overtime loss to Philadelphia on Jan. 18. Poti also has been nursing a lower body injury, and Fehr is out three to four weeks with a shoulder injury.
The dearth of available players at practice meant Washington was unable to work on improving its struggling power play, which ranks 18th in the league at 17.4 percent. Last season the Capitals were first in power play percentage (25.2).
The power play has been particularly troublesome for Ovechkin, who has two goals with that unit this season. He hasn't scored on the power play in Washington's last 130 chances. The two-time Richard Trophy winner has never scored fewer than 13 power play goals in one season.