Mikhail Grabovski returned to practice Thursday after missing the past two games with the flu and was in his expected spot on the second line between Eric Fehr and Troy Brouwer as the Capitals prepare for back-to-back games this weekend.
Grabovski will make the trip to Carolina with the team and Coach Adam Oates said he expects the center to play Friday night in Raleigh as long as he’s still feeling okay.
Grabovski’s likely return to the lineup would allow the Capitals to weather a suspension to Tom Wilson without any significant adjustments. After recalling Casey Wellman from Hershey on Tuesday, Washington currently has 13 forwards on the active roster.
A few other notes from practice:
>> Brooks Laich skated for a fourth consecutive day – he worked out on the ice Wednesday when the rest of the team had an off day – and continues to make progress toward a return. In Philadelphia Tuesday, Laich said he and the vast group of medical experts he had consulted believe they identified a problem in his back as the source of his recurring groin pain.
“Just spent and hour and a half on the ice virtually pain free,” Laich said. “Every day I’m making leaps and bounds. Today was my best day as far as explosions and cuts, full stride and feeling as good at the end as what I did at the start so for myself very positive, very encouraging day.
He rotated in with the third line of Jason Chimera, Martin Erat and Joel Ward during drills in practice and one expects Laich will center that unit whenever he’s ready to get back in a game. Laich is on the long-term injured reserve list and the earliest he is eligible to return to game action is Dec. 23 against the Anaheim Ducks.
>> Aaron Volpatti was back on the ice after being unable to finish Tuesday’s game after his fight with Adam Hall. The Flyers’ winger connected on a few punches during the bout and one landed right on Volpatti’s right eye, blurring the vision of the Capitals’ gritty forward.
“I’ve had black eyes before but I think it just caught me flush, right on the eyeball,” Volpatti said. “My vision was just a little bit blurry on that side. It was a lot better yesterday and a lot better today.”
>> All three goaltenders will make the trip to Carolina but the Capitals have yet to name a starter for Friday’s game against the Hurricanes.
>> Here’s what the lineup looked like in practice
Urbom skating as an extra
Holtby, Grubauer, Neuvirth.