The Washington Capitals could be one step closer to a full lineup when they take the ice against San Jose.
Head coach Peter Laviolette told reporters after Friday’s practice that T.J. Oshie and Nic Dowd are “possibilities” for Saturday’s game against the Sharks. Both made the road trip for the West Coast swing and have been skating.
They were a full-go in practice on Friday, with both sporting regular contact jerseys.
Oshie has been out of the lineup since suffering a lower-body injury on Oct. 27 against the Detroit Red Wings. He appeared to injure his foot on a blocked shot and was listed as week-to-week and placed on the injured reserve. And, while Oshie is still in a walking boot, per The Athletic‘s Tarik El-Bashir, he was still taking part in line rushes and drills on the ice.
Dowd was dealing with an injury earlier in the year but is now recovering from another injury. The 31-year-old went down while skating against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 8 and wasn’t putting much weight on his right foot. Like Oshie, he went to the IR, and he has been skating with the team as well.
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It’ll be a good thing for the Capitals, who had just 12 healthy forwards to open the road trip with Lars Eller entering the league’s COVID-19 protocol. Garrett Pilon has been filling in at center for No. 20, and Evgeny Kuznetsov was the team’s only healthy usual top-4 center left in the lineup. Eller remains in protocol.
Washington also saw an injury scare with Daniel Sprong going down in practice on Friday. He left the ice but returned later on. Laviolette told the media that he will check with trainers on Sprong’s status, but it was ultimately a good sign he returned.
With Dowd and Oshie back, the Capitals get two key pieces of the team back in the mix. Nicklas Backstrom is still skating on his own back home in D.C., and Anthony Mantha remains out indefinitely following shoulder surgery in early November.
Dowd gives the Capitals their top face-off man and penalty killer back. Through nine games, he has one goal and a career-high face-off percentage of 56.36. He also recently signed a three-year extension with Washington.
Meanwhile, Oshie brings back scoring prowess and adds another top-6 winger to the mix, further helping fill Anthony Mantha’s void. He can also return to his bumper spot with hopes to bolster the struggling power play. The 34-year-old, who also serves as a mentor to the Capitals’ young arsenal, has six points through seven games so far this season. Oshie is also key in winning important draws.
Despite everything, Washington is still faring well thanks to the impressive play of its young stars and is 5-0-1 through its last six games. All of their rookie skaters, except Aliaksei Protas (who dazzled vs. the Kings and got time practicing on PP2 Friday), have found the scoresheet so far. They’re skating well, moving their feet and playing smart hockey at both ends.