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T.J. Oshie leaves Capitals’ preseason win early with upper-body injury

T.J. Oshie was injured in the second period and did not return. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The Washington Capitals’ 4-2 preseason win Wednesday over the Detroit Red Wings at Capital One Arena came with a sour aftertaste. T.J. Oshie sustained a second-period hit from Detroit’s Joe Veleno, his right shoulder going hard into the boards. Oshie did not return.

The team later said Oshie suffered an upper-body injury. Coach Peter Laviolette said Oshie’s exit was not precautionary. Oshie “was not coming back,” the coach said.

Oshie was seen leaving the arena in good spirits and it didn’t appear he was wearing any type of sling on either shoulder.

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Newcomer Connor Brown’s power-play strike with 2:27 remaining in the game held up as the difference. Alex Ovechkin scored an empty-netter with 53.4 seconds left to account for the final margin.

Detroit’s Tyler Bertuzzi opened the scoring with a five-on-three power play goal early in the first period. The Capitals’ Connor McMichael, still fighting for a roster spot, scored late in the first to tie it. Michael Rasmussen put the Red Wings up 2-1 before Nick Jensen tied the score at 2 midway through the second period.

“Any time you can get that forward a little out of position and he kind of lunges for that shot lane is when I see an opportunity to go the other way,” Jensen said. “So he bit on it and it opened up a shot lane opportunity to get the puck to the net. Was a good screen in front, nothing special about the shot. The goalie just couldn’t see it, I think.”

The Capitals’ final preseason game is Saturday at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Here’s what to know from the game:

Oshie’s injuries

Oshie dealt with myriad injuries last season, suiting up for only 44 games before postseason play. The team described them as both “upper-body” and “lower-body,” but, specifically, the ailments included foot, back and core issues. When he was on the ice, he was productive, with 11 goals and 14 assists. He also had a team-high six goals in the postseason.

After his injury-filled 2021-22, Oshie underwent core surgery. The surgery had not hampered his preseason play and last week he said he was all set for the season opener.

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Oshie’s health is crucial for the Capitals, who benefit greatly from his tenaciousness on pucks, the stability he brings to the lineup and his locker room presence. At 35, it is reasonable to expect his health to be a recurring theme for the coming campaign.

Protas plays five

Aliaksei Protas continues to get a long look. He is the only Capitals player to appear in all five preseason games.

Against Detroit, Protas played on the fourth line with Henrik Borgstrom and Garnet Hathaway, an intriguing spot for the young prospect who could make the full-time jump to the NHL.

If Protas makes the opening night lineup, he could take over the fourth-line left wing role that Carl Hagelin (eye and lower-body injury) occupied the last couple years. Protas’s big frame and speed could pair nicely with Nic Dowd and Hathaway’s gritty defensive play.

Protas’s spot in the opening night lineup is far from secured and there is still a good chance he plays for the Hershey Bears, the Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate this season. If Washington decides to send Protas to Hershey he does not need to clear waivers.

McMichael steps up

McMichael, whose roster spot could be in jeopardy with the emergence of Protas, responded with a strong game. He had a goal and drew a penalty in the first period, scoring off a deflection off Ovechkin’s net-front feed.

“Every game that I play I just keep getting better and better,” McMichael said. “I’m trying to soak it all in and be a sponge out here.”

McMichael hasn’t had a lot of standout moments in the preseason. Although he has expressed his desire to play center, there doesn’t appear to be a clear opening. Evgeny Kuznetsov has locked in the first-line center role, newcomer Dylan Strome has taken over the second-line center position, Lars Eller looks primed for third-line center and Dowd is a lock on the fourth line.

If McMichael instead gets moved to wing, there is more flexibility.

“If that [wing] is where I got to play then that’s where I got to play. I’m just happy to be here,” McMichael said.

Jensen’s contract year

Jensen is entering his fourth season in Washington and is starting the final year of the four-year, $10 million deal signed in 2019. He has steadily improved during his time in the District, last season scoring a career-high five goals while playing on the second defensive pairing with Dmitry Orlov.

Jensen has looked solid in the preseason and his move to get open before his second period goal was both flashy and effective.

“Being on my toes, being aggressive, shutting defenders down and getting north up in the play as much as possible as I can I think that is some staples in my game that I did well and something I am going to build off this year hopefully,” Jensen said.