The Washington Capitals (5-0-3) are heading to the Sunshine State for another big test after a solid October. The Capitals will face the Tampa Bay Lightning and the 8-0-1 Florida Panthers to kick off November, and they’ll have a couple of key names on the road with them.
Nic Dowd, who missed Friday’s 2-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes after suffering an injury at Washington’s morning skate, will travel with the team. He was on the ice on Sunday sporting a dark blue jersey and was skating as an extra. It’s unclear when he’ll return to the lineup, but it was a good sign to see him on the ice.
Head coach Peter Laviolette believes Dowd’s injury is something that has been “lingering.” He was listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury after getting tangled up with Blake Coleman in the Capitals’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames on Oct. 23. Dowd missed the Capitals’ 7-5 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday but returned for Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.
Nicklas Backstrom will also make the trip to Florida. However, the plan isn’t for him to practice with the team or play. He’s mainly there to support his teammates as he continues to rehab and recover on his own.
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The Swede has been skating in full gear by himself and the plan is for him to return to practice and get into more intense drills as he begins to feel more comfortable.
“I would think that at some point you’ll see him out with this group, moving around, working into the drills… then from there we’ll get into more intense practice where maybe the color comes off and the jersey comes off and he gets some reps under his belt at full speed with light contact,” Laviolette explained of Backstrom’s progression. “Then [we’ll see] where he’s going to need to play. And then whenever that time is when the doctors and Nick and everybody’s on the same page and he feels comfortable, we’ll move forward from there.”
Per the long-term injured reserve rules, he is eligible to come off the LTIR on Friday, but that doesn’t seem likely as he hasn’t taken the ice with the team yet this season.
T.J. Oshie, meanwhile, remains on the injured reserve and is week-to-week with a lower-body injury. He is in a walking boot and appeared to hurt his right foot after blocking a Dylan DeKeyser shot.
Washington ran with the same lineup it had on Friday against the Coyotes. Lars Eller continues to take Dowd’s place between Carl Hagelin and Garnet Hathaway on the Capitals’ powerhouse line. Brett Leason is the 12th healthy forward.
Here’s what the combinations looked like:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Anthony Mantha-Connor McMichael-Daniel Sprong
Carl Hagelin-Lars Eller-Garnet Hathaway
Conor Sheary-Hendrix Lapierre-Brett Leason
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz
Vitek Vanecek/Ilya Samsonov
Washington faces off against the defending Cup champions on Monday and then battles the Panthers on Thursday. The Capitals will return home on Friday for a tilt with the Philadelphia Flyers.