Evgeny Kuznetsov, after leaving the ice midway through the third period of the Washington Capitals’ win at the Florida Panthers on Thursday, was a full participant Tuesday in the team’s first practice following the all-star break. Both Kuznetsov and Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said the 25-year-old center will play against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night.
Kuznetsov was left kneeling on the ice Thursday after a third-period faceoff when it appeared he overextended his left leg. It was classified as a lower-body injury, and he did not return. After the game, Trotz said Kuznetsov was walking around and the team would know more Friday, but that update was put off until the team reconvened Tuesday.
Kuznetsov said he didn’t want to say much about the injury Tuesday, but he smiled and credited the “magic hands” of the Capitals’ athletic trainers for getting him back to the ice quickly. He added that he did not feel any significant pain in practice — just the normal rust after four days away from the ice.
“You have to trust the player, and I trust Kuzy,” Trotz said when asked how Kuznetsov was evaluated during the break. “Obviously he’s fine, and he’s good to go tomorrow.”
The Capitals (29-15-5) have played four games in 18 days and are coming off their second five-day layoff in that stretch. They return to the ice against the Flyers to start a stretch of 15 games in 28 days and will finish the season with 33 games in 67 days. Kuznetsov has 13 goals and 32 assists this season; he had two assists in the 4-2 win over the Panthers.
Kuznetsov skated on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson on Tuesday, the group he was with in the Capitals’ previous two games before the all-star break. Here are how all the Capitals lines looked during practice:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana-Lars Eller-Brett Connolly
Alex Chiasson-Jay Beagle-Devante Smith-Pelly
That left Chandler Stephenson cycling in as the extra forward, but the team’s morning skate Wednesday will offer a better indication of what the lineup will look like against the Flyers.
Kuznetsov had been in a bit of a slump before the Panthers game: He had scored just once in January. He still only has one goal since the calendar turned to 2018, but the two assists against the Panthers seemed to put him on the right track. His first came on the power play, with a well-placed pass to Backstrom, and the second was a secondary assist on an even-strength goal by defenseman John Carlson.
Now he will have a chance to sustain that rhythm going into the stretch run.
“The first practice after a break, we’re just trying to move as much as we can,” Kuznetsov said of how he felt Tuesday. “But it feels okay.”
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