Joel Ward took part in the Capitals’ morning skate in Arlington but the veteran winger isn’t ready to return to the lineup just yet.
He will miss an eighth consecutive game with a left knee contusion Thursday as Washington hosts the Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center, but Ward said being able to participate in an on-ice workout with teammates was a step in the right direction.
“It was just good to be out there. It was definitely a positive day, for sure. It’s been a while now since I had a chance to put on gear and somewhat participate in practice,” said Ward, who was still unsure if he would be able to play Saturday in the regular season finale against the Boston Bruins. “I’d like to try, see if I can get in there. But it’s been day-to-day — I’d say more like hour-to-hour.”
Coach Adam Oates wouldn’t rule out Ward against Boston, but said that the 32-year-old certainly needs a few workouts where he’s able to participate at full speed before returning to the lineup.
“I would say now he needs a couple good practices at full pace before we put him in,” Oates said.
Michal Neuvirth gets the nod against the Senators, which will mark his fifth start and sixth appearance in the past 36 games. Oates has made it clear that he wants both goaltenders to be fresh and ready to play in the postseason, should they be called upon, so it’s not surprising to see Neuvirth get a start now that the Capitals have clinched a playoff berth.
“Anything can happen right? And you have to prepare for that,” Oates said. “We finally put ourselves in a position where we can. I expect us to have a great game and him have a great game.”
Neuvirth is the only change to Washington’s lineup as Oates will stick with the same group of forwards and defensemen against the Senators. Wojtek Wolski, Jeff Schultz and Tom Poti will sit as healthy scratches.
Here’s what the lineup should look like:
Goal: Neuvirth, Holtby.