The Washington Capitals are heading into the last couple of days of their West Coast swing, and they may be a bit back to normal when all is said and done.
Washington kicks off the first of yet another back-to-back when they face the San Jose Sharks late on Saturday. While Lars Eller is still in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, T.J. Oshie and Nic Dowd could be making their comebacks by puck drop.
Head coach Peter Laviolette told reporters on Saturday that Oshie and Dowd are “possibilities” against the Sharks. Eller, meanwhile, didn’t make the trip to L.A. or San Jose and is still quarantining in Anaheim. He is not allowed to travel with the team and there is no timetable on when he could come back.
Washington held an optional morning skate on Saturday, so there were no line rushes. Dowd was on the ice for that practice, while Oshie was not. Oshie did skate on Friday, though, and was also taking line rushes with Connor McMichael and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby.
T.J. Oshie just took line rushes with Connor McMichael and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby.
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) November 19, 2021
Sprong, who suffered an injury scare at Friday’s skate, was on the ice practicing as well and is good to play, per Laviolette.
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The return of Dowd and Oshie, whether they happen on Saturday or not, will be a welcome sight for the Capitals.
With Eller out to open the road trip, the Capitals have had just one of their usual top-4 centers (Evgeny Kuznetsov) in the lineup over these last two games. Getting Dowd back will be a major boost in the face-off dot and on the penalty kill. Dowd has a goal and a career-high FO% of 56.35 in nine games so far this season. The 31-year-old, who recently inked a three-year extension, has been on the injured reserve and nursing an injury he suffered on Nov. 8 against the Buffalo Sabres.
Oshie, meanwhile, can also win draws, but most importantly, his return could help spark the struggling power play and bring more offense and pressure to the top-6. Right now, Washington is missing three of its top-6 forwards in Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Anthony Mantha. Oshie has six points through seven games and has not played since suffering an injury on a blocked shot on Oct. 27 against Detroit. He can not only spark the offense but also continue to mentor the rookies, who have been standing tall for the Capitals so far this season.
Per The Athletic’s Tarik-El Bashir, Ilya Samsonov was the first goaltender off the ice for the Capitals on Saturday, indicating he will get the nod vs. the Sharks. He had a standout 34-save shutout performance against the Kings on Thursday, which could be the turning point his season needs.