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Capitals’ Vanecek Solid In Return From Injury As Recovery Continues In Hershey

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Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek

It had been almost four weeks since Vitek Vanecek last played in a game after suffering an upper-body injury early in the Washington Capitals’ Feb. 1 tilt with the Pittsburgh Penguins. On a conditioning loan to Hershey, Vanecek got back in the crease to get some game action in as he continues his road to recovery, and he started for the Bears in their meeting with the Utica Comets on Sunday.

The Czech netminder stood tall in his first game back from an injury, making 21 saves on 23 shots against for a .913 save percentage in Hershey’s 3-1 loss to the Comets. He was on the ice for 59 minutes before the Bears pulled him for the extra attacker. However, Utica spoiled the comeback with an empty netter late. Jake Massie scored the lone goal for Hershey.

It marked the first time Vanecek played an AHL game in two years. He last played for the Bears in 2019-20, where he finished the campaign with a .917 save percentage. He made the NHL jump in 2020-21 when Henrik Lundqvist ended up sidelined due to a heart condition.

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Given Vanecek is feeling better, Washington will likely recall him for its Monday tilt with Toronto. Ilya Samsonov is currently the only netminder on the roster, as Pheonix Copley was also re-assigned on Sunday.

Vanecek’s return will be a welcome sight for the Capitals, who has been unable to find consistency and slid in the standings. Washington currently sits in the second Wild Card spot and has a red-hot Columbus team right behind.

The 26-year-old was starting to get into a rhythm for the Capitals before going down with an injury, posting a .941 save percentage in his last six games played before the Pittsburgh match. Vanecek also has the fourth-highest save percentage at 5-on-5 among NHL goaltenders with at least 15 games played (.935).

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