WASHINGTON, D.C. — Anthony Mantha will indeed make his return for the Washington Capitals on Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Capitals activated Mantha from the long-term injured reserve and placed Carl Hagelin (eye) on the LTIR and Snively (upper-body) on the IR. These moves created cap space to make room for Mantha’s return.
Mantha has not played since Nov. 4 against the Florida Panthers. An awkward missed hit on Anthony Duclair led to a shoulder injury that ultimately required surgery. He had been around the facility and was making progress, and recently started getting back into skating on his own before joining the group in a non-contact, powder-blue sweater. He was cleared for contact on Monday.
Washington saw Hagelin go down at Tuesday’s practice after taking a stick up high during competition drills. He suffered a “serious” eye injury and underwent surgery, and he will be out for an extended period of time. Meanwhile, Snively is dealing with a lingering upper-body injury and is listed as week-to-week.
Mantha laced ’em up for the first 10 games of the season, dishing two goals and four assists. He came over to D.C. in a blockbuster trade deadline deal for Jakub Vrana last season, and had eight points in the final 14 regular-season games of the 2020-21 campaign. In the postseason, he had two assists and led the Capitals with 88 shot attempts over their five playoff games against Boston.
With Mantha back, Washington has 12 healthy forwards. Daniel Sprong will also return after being a healthy scratch over the last four games. Mantha took part in the team’s optional morning skate, but head coach Peter Laviolette wouldn’t reveal whether or not the 26-year-old would return to the lineup.
“I think you always watch a little bit. No player ever comes back if they’re not cleared. Nobody comes back early and nor will he come back early,” When he’s back, he’s back,” Laviolette mentioned. But I do think you watch it a little bit and make sure he’s in a good spot. He’s looked really good out here to me in practice it looks like he’s strong and looks like he’s conditioned and lots of positives that go with that.”
Mantha is expected to play on the second line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. This will be the first time in 2021-22 that the team has its optimal top-6. Conor Sheary, who has been there, was skating with Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway on Wednesday with Hagelin absent.