TORONTO – Defenseman Matt Niskanen, who missed practice Monday and briefly skated alone Tuesday after incurring a lower-body injury against the Florida Panthers, will be a game-time decision for Wednesday’s road matchup here at Air Canada Centre.
“I don’t know yet,” Niskanen said. “And that’s the truth, I actually don’t know yet. I was on the ice for two minutes yesterday, on my own, so today was the first practice, learned some things, we’ll see.”
Niskanen was vague when asked where the injury specifically occurred, but did confirm it happened on the penalty kill against the Panthers, when a puck appeared to ricochet hard off his ankle. He did not miss a shift and finished the 4-3 victory still on the ice.
“I’m not supposed to disclose injuries, but something of that nature,” he said. “Not serious, which is good. Got checked to make sure it was nothing damaging.”
Niskanen skated Wednesday morning, working from his usual perch on the second defensive pairing beside Karl Alzner. If Niskanen cannot go, Nate Schmidt would take his place, though Coach Barry Trotz expected the 28-year-old righty to play.
“That’ll be basically game-time,” Trotz said. “He should be fine. Shouldn’t be any problem. He skated today, I talked to him. We’ll see at the game time, but nothing serious.”
Niskanen said his injury felt “much better than it felt the night it happened and it’s been better every day since.” But he hedged against declaring himself ready, and ruled out playing only one section of Washington’s road back-to-back in Toronto and Philadelphia. If he felt ready enough to go, Niskanen said, that would require the confidence to play on consecutive nights.
“I’m feeling better,” he said. “If I’m able to play, I’ll play and if I don’t think I can at a high enough level, then I won’t.”
>> Goaltender Braden Holtby was first off the ice, so his career-high starts streak will extend to a 15th game. Since he also appeared in Washington’s 6-2 loss to the Maple Leafs on Nov. 29, he will also tie the Capitals’ franchise record for consecutive games played at 22, set in 1979-80 by Wayne Stephenson.
>> Members of the Russian national junior hockey team attended the morning skate and cheered when Alex Ovechkin scored during a drill. The Russians lost to Canada, 5-4, in the gold medal game at Air Canada Centre, which is still sporting empty, advertisement-less boards from the event.
The Russians fell into a 5-1 hole during the second period, but climbed back with three goals in just over three minutes before ultimately falling short during a scoreless third.
“After 5-1, I just want to shut TV off and go to sleep, and 5-2, 5-3, 5-4,” Ovechkin said. “It was a very good game and I’m proud.”