By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Alex Ovechkin's second practice since suffering the most serious injury of his career went much better than the first.
The Washington Capitals winger took shots, stickhandled and skated hard for about a half hour under the watchful eye of strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish following the team's practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Monday. Afterward, Ovechkin said he's no longer in pain and might be able to return to the lineup within the next week.
"I wish it was going to be tomorrow," said Ovechkin, who suffered a strain near his left shoulder eight days ago. "I need to make sure I'm good and my body feels good. Probably a week. We'll see."
Ovechkin also skated on Thursday but quickly abandoned his stick after aggravating the strain. He didn't skate the next three days.
But the two-time MVP had no such issues Monday.
"This is progress, I think, [and] I'm kind of happy about it," said Ovechkin, who has missed the past three games, his longest stretch of inactivity since joining the NHL in 2005. "It was no pain. It was easy shots, not hard. I don't want to rush my body to take some real hard slap shot or wrist shot."
Team officials are similarly encouraged, though Coach Bruce Boudreau and General Manager George McPhee conceded that it appears unlikely Ovechkin will return in time for Wednesday's game against the New York Islanders at Verizon Center. McPhee speculated that Ovechkin could return as soon as this weekend.
"We thought it might be one [week], might be two," McPhee said. "If it's a little more than that, it's acceptable. But it's not going to be four or five weeks."
Ovechkin said his biggest concern is getting back the full range of motion on the left side of his upper torso, not getting hit and suffering a setback. Although the team has never disclosed the exact nature of his injury, Ovechkin gestured toward a spot between his pectoral muscle and shoulder while speaking to reporters.
"I can [have] contact," he said. "It's all about moves."Nylander clears waivers
Michael Nylander cleared waivers and, according to Boudreau, is not expected to rejoin the Capitals this season.
Nylander, according to sources, is weighing an offer from a team in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League. If the 37-year-old accepts the deal, the Capitals would loan him to the team. Under that arrangement, the Capitals would continue to pay Nylander's salary, but his $4.875 million cap hit no longer would count against Washington's cap figure. The Russian team would then, in return, pay the Capitals a negotiated sum for Nylander's services.
"We just thought it wasn't a good fit," Boudreau said. "Without going into to too much detail, this year's team we just didn't feel was a good fit for Mike."
Nylander has not practiced with the Capitals since accepting a two-week conditioning stint with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League last month and has not appeared in a game since the playoffs.
When Nylander went unclaimed, that cleared the path for the Capitals to assign him to a team in another league.
McPhee declined to answer specific questions about Nylander's status, saying, "There's some things that are going on and I'd rather see what develops, and then we can talk about it tomorrow. I would expect that we would have something to talk about tomorrow."Injury updates
Defenseman Mike Green returned to practice Monday after missing Saturday's game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Defenseman Jeff Schultz, however, did not skate, and Alexander Semin left practice early after aggravating an injury.
"I feel good," said Green, who left Friday's game in Florida after a collision with a Panthers forward. "I wanted to play, but there was no point in rushing back. For me it's just being mobile. As long as I can move, I'm fine."
Schultz, meantime, is expected to return to practice on Tuesday, Boudreau said. He suffered a lower-body injury Friday and also missed Saturday's game.
Boudreau said he anticipates Semin will practice Tuesday as well. The team did not divulge what is ailing the winger, but McPhee said Semin suffered an injury on Friday and played hurt on Saturday. In the third period of Friday's game, Semin sat on the bench and rotated his right wrist several times after absorbing a big hit from Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard.
"He was feeling a little sore," Boudreau said.
It's believed that Semin has been playing through a litany of injuries, which might have something to do with his recent decline in production. He has not recorded a point in three straight games and has not scored a goal in six.