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Capitals Activate Four From COVID Protocol And IR; Alexeyev Poised For Debut

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Capitals forward T.J. Oshie

It appears the Washington Capitals will have several familiar faces back in the mix and see another NHL debut on Wednesday against the Nashville Predators.

Washington activated Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie from COVID-19 protocol and Tom Wilson from the injured reserve. Backstrom, Kuznetsov and Wilson have been practicing and taking part in the line rushes over the last few days, and will likely return against Nashville. T.J. Oshie did not practice on Monday or Tuesday but was on the ice for Wednesday’s optional morning skate. However, it’s unclear whether or not he will suit up at this time.

Wednesday will mark Backstrom’s first home game of the 2021-22 campaign and his second game of the season. After months of rehabilitating a lingering hip injury, he came off the long-term injured reserve for a Dec. 15 game against Chicago and picked up an assist in his return. However, he was sidelined yet again almost immediately after when he entered the COVID-19 protocol. Meanwhile, Kuznetsov has not played since Dec. 11 in Buffalo after entering protocol before the Chicago game. Oshie last played on Dec. 17 against the Winnipeg Jets and has been on protocol since Dec. 19.

Wilson, meanwhile, is coming back from an upper-body injury he suffered on Dec. 14 against the Pittsburgh Penguins following a collision with Tristan Jarry. He has been skating on the top line with Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin at practice.

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If all goes well before puck drop, this will mark the first time this season that the Capitals will have all of their usual top-4 centers in the lineup.

“I think it just makes our team better when everybody’s healthy,” Lars Eller said, adding, “It’s only going to help us in the long run and now 30 games in now everybody will have a better opportunity to get some chemistry going and we can build [on] the last 50 games here. I’m looking forward to that. I’m excited about our team. When we’re healthy I’m excited.”

Meanwhile, the Capitals also recalled Alex Alexeyev and Brett Leason from the taxi squad, and Alexeyev will likely make his NHL debut against the Predators. The 2018 first-rounder has been skating on the third pairing with Matt Irwin with Washington seeing Martin Fehervary, Nick Jensen, Justin Schultz and Dennis Cholowski enter the COVID-19 protocol during the pause. If Alexeyev plays, he will be the seventh Capitals player to play in his first NHL game this season.

“Feel pretty good. Feel confident, excited…” Alexeyev said of his call-up, adding that this season, he has focused on “just stay consistency, playing hard. Learn how to play in D-zone and move the pucks quick.”

Michal Kempny is also expected to make his season debut and play his first regular-season game since March 2020 after earning a call-up from Hershey. He has been skating on the second pair with Trevor van Riemsdyk.

In other news, Mike Sgarbossa cleared waivers and has been re-assigned to the taxi squad. Fehervary, Jensen, Schultz, Cholowski, Daniel Sprong and Vitek Vanecek remain in protocol. Ilya Samsonov and Pheonix Copley are working in tandem between the pipes with Vanecek out.

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