Ovechkin unlikely to play in Capitals next game

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Alex Ovechkin is unlikely to play when the Washington Capitals visit the New York Rangers on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBCSWA+) because of a lower-body injury.

The forward left after playing one shift in his return to the Capitals in their 6-3 win at the Rangers on Monday. Ovechkin missed the previous four games with the injury. 

The 35-year-old did not participate in Washington’s optional practice Tuesday, but coach Peter Laviolette said he remains confident Ovechkin will be healthy for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“Where it goes through the end of the year, the most important thing is the playoffs and they’re a ways away,” Laviolette said. “I still feel we’re in good shape for that. But our level of concern is high to make sure that he’s healthy.”

The Capitals (33-14-5) have clinched a playoff berth and are tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for first in the eight-team MassMutual East Division. They have four regular-season games remaining and play their finale against the Boston Bruins on May 11. The start date for the playoffs has not been announced.

Ovechkin was injured against the New York Islanders on April 22. Washington has been cautious throughout his recovery and believed he was ready to play after its morning skate Monday, but he played 39 seconds before leaving. 

“He went through the morning skate and he felt great,” Laviolette said. “He went through a practice the day before and he felt great. There wasn’t anything. There were no restrictions, no color jerseys, no being held back, and for whatever reason when he got into the warmup last night it felt a little bit different. So we didn’t need to make a decision on it at that point because we weren’t scratching a player to put him in the lineup. 

“When he went out and he tried it in the first shift, he said, ‘It’s just not right,’ and we called it off.

Defenseman John Carlson returned Monday after missing two games with a lower-body injury, but the Capitals played with 17 skaters (one short of the maximum), including 11 forwards. Forward T.J. Oshie (death of his father) and defenseman Justin Schultz (lower body) were unavailable, and forward Evgeny Kuznetsov and goalie Ilya Samsonov were scratched for team disciplinary reasons.

Oshie’s availability for Wednesday is unknown, as is that of Samsonov, and Schultz is day to day. Kuznetsov was placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol Tuesday. He was also on the list earlier this season from Jan. 20-Feb. 7. 

“Right now, we’re working through things inside the room,” Laviolette said.

Ovechkin leads Washington with 24 goals in 44 games. With 730 goals, he is one from tying Marcel Dionne for fifth in NHL history.

The Capitals captain also missed four games while in NHL COVID-19 protocol Jan. 20-29. Before this season, Ovechkin sat out more than four games in a season once in his career. In 2009-10, he missed six games with a shoulder injury and was suspended for four games.

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