The Washington Capitals’ optional skate on Tuesday resembled more of a full practice session that presented a lot of positives.
Washington’s skate took place after the team announced its opening night roster. Nicklas Backstrom was placed on the long-term injured reserve, and Hendrix Lapierre, Connor McMichael and Beck Malenstyn, along with Martin Fehervary, all made the cut.
Here are more takeaways from the Capitals’ skate:
Nicklas Backstrom Takes The Ice
It wasn’t a long skate for Backstrom, but it was a major step in the right direction for the Swede. Backstrom hadn’t skated through training camp as he continues to rehabilitate a hip injury and will miss at least 10 games to start the season (per the rules of the LTIR). The soonest he can return to game action is Nov. 6 vs. Philly.
The 33-year-old was skating slowly and taking some shots on goal while being supervised by trainer Jason Serbus. Backstrom wasn’t in gear but instead in a tracksuit.
Nicklas Backstrom, who was placed on LTI earlier today, is skating and shooting (lightly) under the watchful eye of head athletic trainer Jason Serbus. Coach Peter Laviolette said yesterday that Backstrom was progressing. #Caps pic.twitter.com/QdMXiwefCb
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) October 12, 2021
“Part of a progression for him. It’s what we talk about,” Backstrom said. “That obviously was more of a long-term thing the whole way, where [Alex Ovechkin] is day-to-day and Nick was week-to-week and you hadn’t seen him out there. So the fact that he got out there and just got on his edges a little bit, I think that’s a positive. He’s trained. He’s working hard back here with the therapist to continue to improve on a daily basis. Just to get him out on the ice today and get on his edges is a positive thing.”
Alex Ovechkin Returns
The circumstances were different for Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals captain was in full gear and took the ice for the Capitals’ optional skate. He wasn’t considered a full participant but did stay out there for a majority of the time.
To kick things off, he appeared to be taking things slow, getting his legs back and taking a few shots on net. However, as time went on, he ramped up the pace, going full speed, practicing one-timers from the office and participating actively in the team’s drills.
It’s still unclear whether or not he plays tomorrow, but again, it’s a major step in the right direction.
“That’s a good sign… Like with Nick, we’ll do what’s best for the player and make sure that they’re healthy.
That’s a good sign. We’ll get an update and an evaluation once he gets off the ice. … Certainly a positive sign that he’s out there. Like with Nick, we’ll do what’s best for the player and make sure that they’re healthy and we won’t put them in any situations where they might be jeopardized out there. But obviously, it’s great to see him out there.”
Starting Goaltender Decided
The Capitals have decided on a starter for Wednesday’s opener against the Rangers. Both Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek were on the ice for Tuesday’s skate.
Laviolette said he would tell the goaltenders the news after practice and would reveal the starter at Wednesday’s morning skate.
Vanecek went 1-1-1 through three games, posting a .914 save percentage and 2.50 GAA. Samsonov was 1-2 through three games with a .875 GAA and 3.50 GAA.
Beck Malenstyn Living In The Moment
This is Malenstyn’s first-ever opening night roster, as well as McMichael and Lapierre. Malenstyn is soaking it all in, especially after coming back from a torn Achilles. He injured himself during training doing shuttle sprints and missed all of last season. He was off the ice for about 6-7 months without gear before slowly returning, skating with his midget team back home and then getting back into pro skating.
The 23-year-old said he’s feeling confident and ready to play his hard-hitting, physical style as a versatile utility player when he gets the chance. He has three NHL games under his belt.
“It was a hard road for me and you know a lot of hard work put in by a lot of good people,” Malenstyn said. “So it’s like I said, a really nice validation for me that you know it really all paid off and yeah I just got to take it day by day here and make the most of every opportunity.”