Ovechkin could play in Capitals opener


ARLINGTON, Va. — Alex Ovechkin is day to day with a lower-body injury but could play for the Washington Capitals in their season opener against the New York Rangers at Capital One Arena on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; TNT).

“It’s possible. I’m not sure,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said Sunday. “… It’s not a long-term thing, so we’ll start to see if he makes his way back here and how he progresses over the next few days.”

Ovechkin did not practice Sunday after being injured hitting Philadelphia Flyers forward Travis Konecny in the first period of a 5-3 victory in Washington’s preseason finale Friday. Ovechkin did not put full weight on his left leg as he coasted off the ice following the hit and limped down the tunnel to the locker room.

However, the 36-year-old forward showed no signs of a limp when he walked out to watch practice from the bench Sunday.

“He’s day to day right now … so we’ll just take it day to day and hope he improves,” Laviolette said.

Ovechkin led the Capitals with 24 goals in 45 games last season and enters his 17th NHL season sixth in League history with 730 goals, one behind Marcel Dionne (731) for fifth, 11 behind Brett Hull (741) for fourth, and 36 behind Jaromir Jagr (766) for third. 

He signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract to remain with Washington on July 27.

Before missing a career-high 11 games last season, including four while in NHL COVID-19 protocol and seven because of a groin injury, Ovechkin hadn’t missed more than four games in season since he sat out 10 in 2009-10. 

“I would not be surprised if he’s back for game one,” center Lars Eller said. “For some reason, he never seems to be out for long whatever he’s been dealing with. I know he really wants to (play opening night). He does not like to miss games, like he does not want to take the game off. He wants to play. So if there’s any chance he can, he’ll be out there and I hope he will be.”

The Capitals are already expected to begin the season without center Nicklas Backstrom, who hasn’t skated in training camp because of a left hip injury that has bothered him since last season. 

Backstrom (hip) and Ovechkin (groin) did not play for the Capitals against the Philadelphia Flyers on May 8 of last season, but prior to that, Washington hadn’t played a game without both since they were rested in the regular-season finale against the Anaheim Ducks on April 10, 2016.

“You’re not used to not having them out there,” Eller said. “I can’t remember not having both of them out ever. The good thing is we still have a couple days until the opener, and maybe Ovi will be back, I don’t know. If he’s not, we’ve got some good young guys that have played well in the preseason and I think are ready to play.”

Rookie Connor McMichael practiced Sunday in Ovechkin’s usual spot at left wing on top line with center Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson. Laviolette wouldn’t commit to the 20-year-old playing in that spot Wednesday, though, if Ovechkin isn’t ready.

“Anything is possible,” Laviolette said. “I’m not going to say it’s not possible. I’m not saying that those are going to be the lines tomorrow either. They might be. We’re going to talk about it, just what we saw today.”

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