(Greg Fiume/Associated Press) Jim Slater celebrates his goal against the Caps Tuesday night.

The Capitals held an optional skate Wednesday morning in Arlington as Coach Adam Oates opted to give his players recovery time before they play three games in the next four days.

Those who played last night but didn’t take part in the practice were: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Mike Ribeiro, Troy Brouwer and Wojtek Wolski.

“The thought process is we’ve got a lot of hockey in a short span of time,” Oates said. “Like we talked about last night, it’s going to be a lot of skates for those guys a lot of minutes and trying to identify conditioning versus fatigue. We’ve got a game Sunday afternoon that’s three games in four days with a practice in between. That’s a lot of hockey. Not that it’s necessarily the perfect formula, but it’s one we’re going with.”

After practice, Oates said Michal Neuvirth will make his first start of the season Thursday night when the Capitals host Montreal at Verizon Center. There will be more on Neuvirth a little later in the day, so be sure to check back.

Brooks Laich (groin) did not take part in the skate despite Oates suggesting earlier in the week that the forward might be ready to participate. The Capitals are stressing patience with Laich’s injury, Oates said.

“Making sure that when he comes out it’s going to be not too far away,” Oates said of Laich. “He wants to skate when he can continue to progress and be with us. We’re just being very cautious with it.”

Meantime, Jack Hillen who suffered an apparent shoulder injury in the season opener against Tampa Bay, skated alone for roughly 20 minutes before the rest of the group hit the ice. Oates said he “didn’t really expect him to be back so soon”, so it seems like a positive sign.