Heading into the Olympic break the Capitals list of walking wounded seemed to grow by the day, which meant the nearly three-weeks off between games offered a timely reprieve.
As the Capitals gathered in Arlington to prepare for the stretch run of the regular season, most of their hobbled players were back taking part in practice and expect to be ready to go when the schedule resumes on Feb. 27.
The biggest development in the bunch is that Mike Green, who missed five games with a concussion prior to the break, has passed the neuropsychological test required to clear him for full contact and game action.
“I feel good. The break couldn’t come at a better time,” Green said. “It’s just a matter of skating here, I didn’t skate much before.”
Mikhail Grabovski looks to be skating well after sitting out eight straight games before the break with an injured left ankle and Coach Adam Oates said the veteran center “seems fine”.
Defenseman Jack Hillen, who has been out since the second game of the season with a fractured right tibial plateau, is taking part in practices but is walking with a pronounced limp. It’s difficult to truly gauge his progress until he is able to work through battle drills, which will come in the next few days, though.
John Erskine sat out the last two games as a healthy scratch but has used the break to build up strength. Oates said he expects the rugged veteran blueliner to be ready to play next week.
“I would say that all the guys need the rest,” Oates said. “But for guys who are a little banged up for sure, get a chance to heal, maybe do some weight work and get stronger.”
The only injured player not taking part in regular practices this week is Aaron Volpatti, who injured his left shoulder against Detroit on Feb. 2 and was subsequently placed on long-term injured reserve. Volpatti is skating and working with the team’s strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish but won’t be able to return for several weeks.
The encouraging sign for the gritty winger is that he didn’t need surgery. Back in late 2011, Volpatti underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in the same shoulder.
“There was nothing, no pressing issue to get surgery or anything like that. That’s a positive but they also said it’s going to be a few weeks to get it ready to strengthen,” Volpatti said. “I need to strengthen the joint and stuff like that because that’s my main concern, just make sure it’s 100 percent or close to it.”