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Capitals’ Vanecek Skates On His Own Ahead Of Saturday Practice

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Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek

The Washington Capitals saw Vitek Vanecek make a bit of progress on Saturday, as the 26-year-old netminder took the ice ahead of the team’s practice.

Vanecek skated on his own for a bit and stickhandled, but did not stay for the main skate. Pheonix Copley and Ilya Samsonov were the two Capitals goalies at practice.

This marks the first time Vanecek has been seen on the ice since suffering an upper-body injury on Feb. 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Vanecek had started the night in net. Following an apparent helmet-on-helmet collision with Kasperi Kapanen and a goal against in the opening frame, Vanecek left the game and did not return. He has been on the injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

The Czech netminder had been getting into a rhythm and gaining traction in the No. 1 goalie race for Washington before going down with an injury. In his last six games, Vanecek put up a .942 save percentage, 1.67 GAA and two shutouts. In a total of 24 games this season, Vanecek is 10-6-5 with a .915 save percentage and 2.39 GAA.

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Over their last three games, the Capitals had to pull their goaltenders twice. Ilya Samsonov surrendered three goals on four shots against to open play against the Oilers on Feb. 2, and was relieved by Pheonix Copley. Then, Copley was pulled for Samsonov on Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets after allowing four goals on 19 shots. Samsonov then bounced back in a major way against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday with 42 saves on 44 shots (.955 save percentage).

It’s unclear where Vanecek stands or when he’ll be able to return to full practices, but it is an encouraging sign that he was able to hit the ice and at least get out there.

Head coach Peter Laviolette said earlier in the week that Vanecek was emerging as a leader in the race for the starting spot heading into the playoff push.

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