While neither is expected to be ready for the start of Washington’s first-round series against Boston, injured goaltenders Michal Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun continue inching toward their potential returns.
Both netminders met with reporters Tuesday for the first time since suffering their latest injuries. Neither could be definitive about when they might be ready to return to the lineup, though.
Neuvirth, who according to General Manager George McPhee is further along in his recovery than Vokoun, took part in some of the drills during the practice session Tuesday. As positive a sign as it was for Neuvirth to be on the ice with his teammates, he wasn’t as explosive when moving in and out of the butterfly position and had a little hesitation in his overall movements.
“I’ve been better. Wasn’t good enough today, but it’s day-to-day. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” said Neuvirth, who was asked if he believes he might be ready in time to appear in the first round. “I think so. I don’t know. I don’t have the answer.”
Neuvirth suffered an apparent injury to his left leg when Florida Panthers forward Marco Sturm fell on him on April 5. While he is making progress, the 24-year-old acknowledged that he is fighting through some discomfort to make a return.
“You’ve got to go through the pain sometimes, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Neuvirth said.
Vokoun spent 20 minutes on the ice before regular practice in what was his first skate since aggravating a groin muscle strain on March 29 in Boston. It’s the second time Vokoun, 35, has re-injured his groin since suffering an initial injury back in late February and it doesn’t sound likely that he would be ready in time for the first round.
This is the first time in his career that Vokoun has dealt with a groin injury and his lack of familiarity with the problem, he said, resulted in his trying to rush back.
“Obviously it’s in a bad situation but I find out kind of the hard way, you can’t hurry something like that,” Vokoun said. “I never had an injury like that before. I think I mismanage it a little from my point of view. Right now it’s getting better, definitely — I took 12 days off without doing anything...
“I can still work out and it’s fine walking,” Vokoun. “Just to be able to walk and run or do stuff like that. When you play goalie, it’s one of those things when you need the most and if it’s not a hundred percent, even hindrance issue and stuff like that, it might be fine first five saves, but after that, when you get tired and you lose the strength in it, you can re-injure it again.”
Vokoun said unlike some injuries – he mentioned bruises and a crack in his foot – the groin strain isn’t something he can play through. Returning to the lineup for the March 29 game at TD Garden gave him a benchmark, however, about what level of readiness he must exceed before deeming himself ready to play again.
For Vokoun, who signed with Washington in order to play in the postseason and have a shot at playoff success, it’s a particularly frustrating situation. But it’s one that he knows he can’t completely control, either.
“I’ll just do the best I can to get healthy, and after that, it’s up to the coaches who they’re going to play or not,” Vokoun said. “I’m not worried about it at all. It doesn’t even mean I’m going to be able to get healthy to play. But it’s progressing. I felt way better than I felt 10 days ago.
“It’s all going to depend on how long our season going to be and all the other stuff,” Vokoun said. “I don’t have a lot of answers. All I have is a plan and I’m trying to stick to it and get my health where it needs to be to be able to perform on the ice.”
More on the Capitals:
— Everybody’s picking the Bruins to win
— Ovechkin-Chara could be key
— Caps will ‘push back’ vs. physical Bruins
— Twitter list of who to follow for the first round
— Complete first-round playoff schedule