Joel Ward skated for the first time Wednesday morning since suffering a knee injury earlier this month. (AP)


Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward appears to be inching closer toward a return to the lineup.

The 32-year-old skated at the team’s Arlington practice facility Wednesday morning for the first time since suffering a knee injury more than two weeks ago, going through conditioning drills in full gear with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish before the rest of his teammates took the ice.

Ward has missed Washington’s past seven games after blocking a shot by Tampa Bay defenseman Sami Salo with his left knee on April 7. A valuable cog on the Capitals’ third and fourth lines, Ward has eight goals and 12 assists this year.

Coach Adam Oates indicated Monday the team had hoped Ward would be back in the fold already, but it appears the hard-nosed wing could be gearing up to make his return in time for next week’s NHL playoffs.

Washington has two more games remaining in the regular season: Thursday against Ottawa and Saturday against Boston.

“Obviously we thought he’d be probably back by now it just hasn’t gone away,” Oates said Monday. “He’s got to be able to practice a couple of days and get his conditioning [back]. It’s been too long a time. [Ward needs to] feel pain free and be able to skate.”

Hopefully we’ll have more on Ward’s progress once practice ends today.

(Update 1:55): Here’s what Oates had to say after practice Wednesday about Ward skating again. He had yet to speak with trainers about it when he addressed Ward’s situation with reporters: “Obviously, it’s encouraging that he skated and that he had all his equipment on. He wasn’t in his sweats, so obviously he felt a little better.”