Ovechkin injury not expected to be issue for Capitals in playoffs

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Alex Ovechkin remains day to day for the Washington Capitals, but coach Peter Laviolette expressed optimism that the forward’s lower-body injury would not linger into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal where people should be wondering if he’s going to be in the playoffs or not,” Laviolette told 106.7 The Fan on Monday. “I don’t think it’s that. I said in the media the other day, sometimes we just don’t know. Somebody does something inside the room and you say day to day because you just don’t know. The players, the way we rehab now and the amount of staff, our staff is unbelievable. The training staff, the strength staff, to take players who do something and start to move it back in the right direction, it is just incredible how they work.

“I don’t think it’s anything long term. I’m not sure if he will be there tomorrow but I don’t think anyone needs to start getting worried about like the playoffs or anything like that. … That’s why I use the word day to day. I think we will be OK by then. Guys turn around pretty quick.”

Washington is scheduled to play its final regular-season game against the Boston Bruins on May 11. The start date for the Stanley Cup Playoffs has not been announced.

The Capitals host the New York Islanders on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSWA, NHL.TV). Ovechkin did not practice Monday.

Ovechkin did not play in Washington’s 6-3 win at New York on Saturday. He left late in the third period of a 1-0 shootout win against the Islanders on Thursday, when he had four shots on goal in 17:18 of ice time.

“I don’t think we’re going to rush him back, but in saying that, you’re talking about one of the top goal-scorers in the game, so when he’s back in there I feel like we’re more dangerous,” Laviolette said Monday. “We’ve had to cover in absence of players for different reasons whether it be [NHL COVID-19] protocol or whether it be injury. Whatever the case might be, we’d had to fill holes like all teams do.

“I think what has been good is that we’ve been able to do that when guys that have been out of the lineup or big players have been out of the lineup. We’ve been able to insert players and they’ve been able to do the job and we still keep moving forward, and to me that is a sign of a team that has good depth and good leadership in the room that make sure that things continue to move the way they’re supposed to.”

Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 24 goals in 43 games and has scored 730 goals in 16 NHL seasons, one from tying Marcel Dionne for fifth in NHL history.

Ovechkin last missed a game because of injury March 5, 2015, against the Minnesota Wild (lower body). Since then he missed three games because he was suspended for skipping the NHL All-Star Game in 2016, 2019 and 2020. He also was scratched for one game in 2015-16 because he overslept for a practice and sat the final game of that season to rest for the playoffs.

The Capitals were 3-0-1 while Ovechkin was in COVID-19 protocol from Jan. 20-29.

“I think we’ve got pretty good depth throughout the whole lineup,” forward T.J. Oshie said. “You’re never going to replace an ‘Ovi,’ obviously, one of the legends of the game already, and he’s still playing. But I think sometimes when you lose a high-caliber player like, obviously, ‘Ovi’ is and Tom [Wilson], the guys kind of have to come together to try to get wins for him. You know how bad ‘Ovi’ wants to be out there.

“The guy almost never misses a game. So it’s just something where you have a little bit of adversity, so right off the hop everyone’s kind of all-in a little more. Not to mention the other night, obviously, we’re getting close to the playoffs here, so everyone’s trying to kick it into gear. But without [Ovechkin], definitely everyone’s been stepping up.”

Washington (31-13-4) is second in the eight-team MassMutual East Division, one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and three points ahead of the third-place Islanders. The top four teams qualify for the playoffs.

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