Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie will not return from his undisclosed “upper-body” injury Saturday night against the Anaheim Ducks, Coach Barry Trotz said after practice Friday.
Oshie, who has missed the past five games, skated for more than an hour before practice but left the full-team workout with trainers, as planned, after about 20 minutes.
“He skated today,” said Trotz, who added he is hopeful Oshie could return to the Capitals’ next practice Monday. “Until he does a full practice and all that, he will not play.”
Defenseman Brooks Orpik also missed Friday’s practice because of an injury. Trotz said the team would evaluate his status against the Ducks during Saturday’s morning skate, but it’s rare that a player suits up for a game without practicing the day before. After practice, Trotz first deemed Orpik’s injury a “lower-body” ailment. A team spokesman later corrected him, noting it’s an “upper-body” injury.
“Depends on where he holds it,” Trotz quipped.
Trotz said the Capitals don’t plan to recall an extra forward or defenseman — they don’t have the salary-cap space to do so — so Oshie’s sixth straight missed game means Trotz will have another chance to evaluate his forwards before finding a spot for Oshie.
The second line has been especially productive in his absence. Evgeny Kuznetsov had three assists against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, and Jakub Vrana has six goals in his past 11 games, including the Capitals’ first in their 5-3 win at the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
Alex Chiasson, meanwhile, has filled in at Oshie’s spot on the line’s right wing and tallied two goals in the third period against the Bruins (although one was shorthanded). Once Oshie returns, Chandler Stephenson, Devante Smith-Pelly and Brett Connolly are among those who might be scratched from the lineup.
“That’s what you want: You want internal competition,” Trotz said. “I don’t know who would come out yet when T.J. does come in.”
Oshie suffered his injury in a 4-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 4. After he hit Sharks center Logan Couture in the corner, Oshie fell to his knees, leaving his head, neck and upper body vulnerable to Sharks center Joe Thornton’s incoming hit. Thornton’s backside pushed Oshie’s head into the glass, and he was face-down on the ice before a trainer attended to him.
When Oshie returns, the Capitals are in line to feature a fully healthy lineup for the first time since the first five games of the season.
Last season, the Capitals had good luck with their health, losing just 49 man-games to injury. So far this year, the team has lost 66 man-games, with Oshie’s absence — and Orpik’s uncertainty — expected to add to the total Saturday night.
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