A few minutes into the Capitals’ first practice of the postseason, Joel Ward switched into a white jersey and began working through drills as a member of the fourth line. It’s the most Ward has participated in a practice since suffering a left knee contusion.
“I’ve upgraded from baby blue. I was pretty excited to get out of that jersey quickly,” Ward said with a laugh. “It was good to be in a white jersey, slowly getting back into it and feeling a part of it.”
The veteran forward missed the final nine games of the regular season after blocking a shot by Tampa Bay’s Sami Salo on April 7, and if there’s any player who will certainly benefit from the delayed start to this first round series, it’s Ward.
Monday marked the fourth time Ward took part in a practice with his teammates, and he’s optimistic he’ll be ready to return to the lineup by Game 1 on Thursday.
“I’m hoping to. Obviously we’ll see how these next couple days go,” Ward said. “I think my mind feels pretty good, it’s just I want to get in with the guys and kind of muck it up a little bit. I think the next couple days will be a pretty good test.”
Coach Adam Oates wouldn’t go so far as to say Ward would definitely be ready by Thursday’s series opener at Verizon Center but it’s much more likely than had their Eastern Conference quarterfinal started Tuesday as the Capitals expected.
“I still think he needs practices. I don’t want to put him in without getting any time on the ice I think it’s been too long,” Oates said. “A couple practices will sure help. Coming off the injured list you’d have to watch his minutes a little bit, the heat of the building and how much he’s playing and see what he’s got left in the tank.”
There were no changes to the forward lines or defensive pairings in Monday’s practice, which was a short 45-minute workout.
Ward and Wolski rotating in
Goal: Holtby, Neuvirth