MONTREAL – Alex Ovechkin skated Saturday morning and it’s possible the Washington Capitals will have the star right wing back in the lineup for Saturday night’s game against the Canadiens. Ovechkin worked through numerous drills, testing his stride and ability to lean into his one-timer, for a little more than a half-hour at Bell Centre.
“Of course when you didn’t skate five days you just very excited to be back,” Ovechkin said of his visible enthusiasm on the ice. “I feel a little better. It’s all about Oatesy, what he wants to do with me. I feel better but Oatesy is going to tell me.”
Ovechkin, who missed the past two games with a groin injury and hadn’t skated since Jan. 19 at New York, is officially a game-time decision for Saturday’s game. But Coach Adam Oates acknowledged that Ovechkin looked both comfortable as he zoomed around the ice – he just wants to make sure the winger feels just as good closer to game time.
“He felt pretty good out there so as long as no setbacks,” said Oates, who expected Ovechkin would take warmups. “We’ll see how he feels this afternoon after his nap or whatever and make sure nothing reoccurs. If he feels good enough we’ll play him.”
As he skated with just a handful of teammates this morning – Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth, Karl Alzner, Connor Carrick, Tom Wilson and Aaron Volpatti were the others who took part in the optional workout – Ovechkin worked up to his churning, explosive stride and didn’t back off from it once he reached that point. He was able to put his full force into his one-timers, another encouraging sign.
Getting Ovechkin back in the lineup would be a boon for the reeling Capitals, who have lost seven straight heading into the matchup with Montreal. Washington has scored just eight goals during that skid, Ovechkin accounting for three of them before he was sidelined by the groin problem.
And with Mikhail Grabovski also a game time decision – though a much less likely possibility to play — after suffering a left-leg injury Friday night in New Jersey, the Capitals could certainly use the return of their captain.
Grabovski’s “going to be big loss for us but I’m hoping I’m going to be in,” Ovechkin said. “And I’m going to help my team to finally get the win.”
>> Grabovski is still on the trip with the team but he didn’t skate this morning in Montreal and Oates didn’t sound overly optimistic that the veteran center would be able to play.
“He was hurting pretty good after the [Devils] game, so we’ll see,” Oates said.
>> If both Ovechkin and Grabovski can’t face the Canadiens, Washington could look to call up a forward seeing as neither Oates nor assistant coach Calle Johansson like to play seven defenseman in a lineup at any one time. Casey Wellman would be the likely candidate to be summoned from Hershey.
>> Braden Holtby gets the nod against the Canadiens. He is 4-0-0 with a .957 save percentage and 1.23 goals-against average – having given up only five goals on 117 shots — against Montreal in his career. It will be Holtby’s fourth appearance in the past five games and second start in the last three.
>> Given the roster uncertainties, check back after warmups for the Capitals’ lineup Saturday in Montreal.