It looks like Anthony Mantha is finally making his return to the Washington Capitals lineup.
Mantha was on the ice for the Capitals optional morning skate on Thursday but didn’t stay on for extra work as he has done in the past. That’s usually a sign that a player is ready to make his way back into the lineup. The team also didn’t make any forward call-ups from Hershey, either.
Head coach Peter Laviolette would not confirm if Mantha would be back, and will touch base with Jason Serbus and the trainers to see where he’s at. If Mantha does come back, Laviolette will monitor his usage in the game.
“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 said. “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 has not played since Nov. 4. In a game against the Florida Panthers, the 26-year-old went awkwardly into the boards and suffered a shoulder injury that would ultimately require surgery. He had been around the practice facility while recovering and started skating on his own in January, and then returned to practices with the group in a non-contact sweater in February. He was cleared for contact on Monday.
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In 10 games before going down with injury this season, Mantha picked up two goals and four assists.
Mantha’s return comes at a much-needed time for Washington. Carl Hagelin suffered a “serious” eye injury after taking a stick to the eye at Tuesday’s practice. He underwent surgery and will be out for an extended period of time. Meanwhile, Joe Snively is out week-to-week with a lingering upper-body injury.
With Mantha healthy, the Capitals will have 12 healthy forwards to dress with Daniel Sprong also available.
The Capitals have lost 14 of 22 games since the start of the new year and have now dropped six straight games on home ice. The last time the team won at home was on Jan. 23 against Ottawa. Meanwhile, the power play continues to struggle.
With Mantha back, Washington gets a vital part of the top-6 back and someone who can spark offense. Mantha came over last season as part of the blockbuster deadline deal for Jakub Vrana.