When T.J. Oshie arrived at the Washington Capitals' practice facility Tuesday morning, a welcome sight greeted him: his number was listed on the board, an indication he’ll be in the lineup for the first time in a month. Oshie has missed the past 11 games with a concussion, and the team won’t be easing him back into action against the Detroit Red Wings, plugging him onto the top line with center Nicklas Backstrom and captain Alex Ovechkin. Oshie also will resume his place on the top power-play unit.
“I think the more you get out there, the more you get involved, the quicker things come back and the quicker you feel like you’re back to normal,” Oshie said. “Obviously playing with two world-class players, I’m sure if I need it, they’ll drag me along out there. But it’s going to be more important for me to get into some forechecks, some battles, and get that physicality and that speed of the game back.”
Coach Todd Reirden said Oshie is a “game-time decision," but barring a setback ahead of the game, all signs point to Oshie making his return Tuesday night. He had posted nine goals and five assists in 18 games before getting hurt, and with this being Oshie’s fifth concussion, he knows it could take him some time to feel like himself on the ice. Coming back from a concussion around this time last season, Oshie went 33 games with just one goal.
“It’s just keeping things simple,” Oshie said. “I think typically I try to give it to those other two guys anyways and go get open. It’s a simple game. It’s getting your feet under you. Hopefully I get hit early, and that usually gets you into the game. ... This [concussion] just kind of lingered for a while. But I’ve been good now for about a week and a half. This is the longest one I’ve sat out. I wanted to play last week. We were pretty careful about it, and the guys that were in the lineup did an outstanding job of allowing them to give me that rest.”
The Capitals haven’t had their full lineup all season, but they’re on track to have their forward corps healthy by the weekend. Right wing Tom Wilson, who suffered a concussion last week, skated without contact Tuesday morning, and he could join the team for a full, contact practice Wednesday. That could have him ready to play by Washington’s game at the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. Defenseman Brooks Orpik, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee three weeks ago, hasn’t started skating and could miss another one to three weeks.
With Oshie back in the lineup, 23-year-old winger Andre Burakovsky will be a healthy scratch Tuesday night after he had played the past two games on the first line. Burakovsky has five goals and three assists in 29 games; this is his first scratch of the season.
“I just felt like going into tonight’s game that other players had taken more advantage of the opportunity than he had recently,” Reirden said. “For me, it’s a rewards/earned ice time situation where there’s a lot of competition. What happens is when players get opportunities and they play well, then it creates competition. Some have to win, some have to lose in that competition. Right now, that’s what we’ve chosen to go with. Now, Andre is still a very young player, huge upside, skill level is really exceptional. This is just where we’re at today, and that can change day by day.”
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