As the Washington Capitals face a major test against the undefeated Florida Panthers, they’ll also be getting back a key piece of their lineup in Nic Dowd. Washington activated Dowd off the injured reserve on Thursday and re-assigned Aliaksei Protas to the AHL’s Hershey Bears.
Dowd originally suffered a lower-body injury against the Flames on Oct. 24 after getting tangled up with Blake Coleman, and he missed the team’s Oct. 26 game in Ottawa. He was able to play on Oct. 27 against Detroit, but at the morning skate before Friday’s tilt with the Coyotes, the 31-year-old suffered another injury. After leaving the pre-game practice frustrated, he missed Friday’s game and subsequently ended up on the IR but made the trip to Florida.
The 31-year-old was still skating, but he was in a blue jersey and not skating on his main line with Carl Hagelin and Garnet Hathaway. He also missed Monday’s showdown with Tampa, where the Capitals suffered their first regulation loss of 2021-22.
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“Sitting in an arena like Tampa not playing definitely makes you understand why you want to play so bad,” Dowd said. “It kind of makes you feel guilty when you have those moments when you’re complaining about how tired you are and you’re sitting up in the stands watching your team play and not being able to contribute.”
Through six games so far this season, Dowd has one goal, five blocks, eight hits and three takeaways. He leads all centers in face-off percentage, winning 59.5 percent of his draws, and he’s also a major part of Washington’s penalty kill, averaging 1:40 minutes per game shorthanded.
Protas, meanwhile, will head back down to Hershey. He logged 3:53 minutes in his debut and worked to use his 6-6 frame to his advantage. He got a couple of good looks, and he will continue to develop down in Hershey.
Brett Leason remains up on the main roster, with T.J. Oshie (IR) week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Nicklas Backstrom remains on the LTIR as he works back from a hip injury. He’s been skating in full gear on his own and will get back to skating with the team when he’s ready. Backstrom is eligible to come off the LTIR for Saturday’s game against the Flyers, but it’s unlikely at this point considering he has yet to participate in practice or contact drills.
Ultimately, having Dowd back gives the Capitals a major boost against a tough Florida team. They’ll have a utility guy who can generate pressure with his line, be reliable in his own end, win draws and most importantly, kill penalties.