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Mantha Discusses Speedy Recovery, Return With Capitals: ‘It Felt Awesome’

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Capitals forward Anthony Matha

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As he took the ice at Capital One Arena for the first time since October, Anthony Mantha felt right at home, and despite the fatigue that comes with returning to game action for the first time in four months, his energy was prominent and provided a spark the Washington Capitals needed.

The 27-year-old played in his first game since undergoing shoulder surgery in November, and smiling wide, he described the feeling of getting back into the lineup after a long time away.

“Mentally felt awesome,” Mantha said. “It was a long four months… so just getting ready for a game felt good. Then stepping on the ice for warmups, you see the fans for the first time in quite some time. It felt awesome.”

Prior to Thursday, Mantha, who came over in a trade for Jakub Vrana at last year’s deadline, had played in just 10 games for the Capitals in 2021-22, picking up two goals and four assists. Then, during a Nov. 4 tilt with the Florida Panthers when a missed hit on Anthony Duclair led to a shoulder injury that would require surgery. At that moment, Mantha wasn’t sure what would come next or how long the recovery would be.

“Obviously when the injury first happened, you kind of don’t know your timeline, you don’t know how bad it is and how quick you can recover,” Mantha explained. “I think the training staff did an awesome job with me… It feels good, so I can’t complain.”

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After undergoing surgery, he spent time at the facility and away from the ice rehabilitating, and said around the two-month mark, he felt confident that his recovery was going in the right direction and that he may come back sooner rather than later.

“It’s hard, the first month, you can’t really do much,” Mantha explained. “You’re doing some massage to kind of get it to relax. And then a little bit of mobility and you’re kind of hoping it’s going to be a quick recovery. As we hit checkmark one, two, three and so on, you kind of figure that you’re ahead of schedule a little bit.

“Obviously worked hard in the gym, worked hard in the rehab place. So maybe around month two, I was like, ‘Okay, let’s try and focus to come back closer to month four than month six. Then we had a talk with the training staff, talk with the coaches to kind of know what our play was. And here we are.”

After off-ice rehabilitation, Mantha started skating on his own and then made his way back into group practices in February. He started off in a non-contact jersey, but the team cleared him for contact on Monday.

Then, in wake of a “serious” eye injury to Carl Hagelin and a week-to-week injury for Joe Snively, the team needed an extra forward. Mantha was ready, and thanks to the trainers, he was able to get back up to speed quickly after having suffered the toughest injury yet of his career.

“It was just, ‘stick with it,’ obviously, and focus on getting back as soon as possible to help this team win,” Mantha said with regard to his mentality.

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When it came to getting back up to game speed, Mantha said he noticed some fatigue, but that he thought his return to the lineup against Carolina went well. He drew in on the second line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie and also logged time on the second power-play unit. The 6-5, 234-pound winger picked up a shot, a hit and a takeaway through 16:13 minutes against the Canes, and he provided an obvious spark in a 4-0 win.

“I knew I had to be focused and do the smart plays [against Caroliina] because if you turn the puck over against that team, they’re creating a lot offensively,” Mantha said of drawing back in vs. the Hurricanes. “I was ready. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”

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