ARLINGTON, V.A. — The Washington Capitals were hard at work for a Friday skate at MedStar Capitals Iceplex and saw quite a bit of change and optimism to open the month of April.
After a maintenance day on Thursday following two days off for the team, Alex Ovechkin returned for practice and was a full go. He is doing fine after not skating since Monday, and nothing appeared to be bothering the 36-year-old.
Meanwhile, Ovechkin found himself in the midst of a shakeup on the top-6. After playing with Evgeny Kuznetsov over the last stretch, Nicklas Backstrom earned a promotion to the top trio and is now the pivot between Ovechkin and Tom Wilson. Backstrom has six goals and 20 assists, including three assists in his last three outings, through 35 games since returning from the long-term injured reserve for a hip injury to open the 2021-22 campaign.
Kuznetsov, meanwhile, is centering the second line with Anthony Mantha and T.J. Oshie, who had been finding chemistry with Backstrom. Prior to Monday, No. 92 was on a 12-game point streak.
The changes come after Monday’s disappointing 6-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, where nothing appeared to be going Washington’s way.
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When it comes to the bottom-6 and blue line, Washington saw a lot of positives on the injury front. Johan Larsson and Nic Dowd were in regular jerseys and full-gos, along with Trevor van Riemsdyk. Head coach Peter Laviolette said that Larsson is trending in the right direction and could play on Sunday. This was TVR’s first day in a contact sweater, and Laviolette needs to see where he is at before making any decisions. All three took part in line rushes.
Here are what the lines looked like:
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Tom Wilson
Anthony Mantha-Evgeny Kuznetsov-T.J. Oshie
Conor Sheary-Lars Eller-Marcus Johansson
Johan Larsson-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz
Connor McMichael and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby were the odd men out and rotating in on the forward lines. Meanwhile, Michal Kempny and Matt Irwin were on a fourth pairing as the extras.
In addition to seeing injured skaters start to progress on the ice, the Capitals also saw Joe Snively take the ice before practice to work with a skating coach. Lars Eller also joined him. Meanwhile, Laviolette also gave an update on Carl Hagelin and said that No. 62 is in good spirits as he continues a “long road” to recovery.