Hours before puck drop between the Capitals and Islanders, Alex Ovechkin’s status for the game is a virtual unknown due to the upper-body injury he suffered Sunday against the Leafs. Ovi will be on the ice for the team’s pregame ceremony honoring him for passing Jaromir Jagr for third on the NHL’s all-time goals list. It’s just unclear if he’ll be in his full pads or not.
Ovechkin did not participate in the Capitals’ morning skate on Tuesday. After practice, Peter Laviolette took questions on Ovechkin’s injury. The cagey and evasive Laviolette said Ovechkin was a game-time decision, but then also said he “didn’t know” if Ovechkin would be ready for the playoffs.
So wait, how can someone be a game-time decision but also possibly be out a week or more? Anyways, let’s try to read the tea leaves here.
Here are Laviolette’s full comments about Ovechkin’s injury from his press conference.
Alex Ovechkin missed practice. What’s Ovi’s status for tonight?
Peter Laviolette: Alex is day-to-day. I think we’re going to evaluate it and do the best thing for Alex. It’ll be a game-time decision but there’ll be nothing we’ll jump into if we don’t need to or if it’s not right.
What’s your concern level for this happening three games before the playoffs?
Peter Laviolette: There’s always a concern. This popped up at the end of last year. We ended up dinging up some guys right at the end of the season. We were in a really good spot and got dinged up a little bit. Those things nagged in. You want to go in as healthy as you can. Put your best foot forward with a healthy lineup. It was a little bit tough that happened last year but that’s what happens.
Hopefully, Alex returns to the lineup soon and everybody else can stay the course here and get through these games and move on to the playoffs.
Are you optimistic he’ll be back for Game One of the playoffs?
Peter Laviolette: I want to say I hope so, but again, I don’t know. It depends on how things progress with him. So it’s day-to-day right now. It’s day-to-day. When you go in and talk to the trainers, he’s been there all morning. He gets looked at and worked on. We’ll see.
Why has he missed so few games during his career? What makes Ovi so durable?
Peter Laviolette: Sometimes there’s got to be a little bit of luck to it. He’s a really strong guy. Like he’s just physically well put together. I can’t explain it. That might be a better question for somebody else. He’s durable. He hates not playing the game. He hates being out. He’s going to want to be back as soon as possible and we’re going to make sure he’s in a good spot to do that.
(I’m deducting points from Laviolette on that final question there for not saying Russian machine never breaks.)
In the end, I’m not sure how to interpret Laviolette’s answers. What complicates the situation is that the playoffs start next week and Ovechkin has already hit the 50-goal mark this season. He’s also 36. The Capitals have an opportunity to climb out of the second wild card spot if they win out, but is that enough of a reason to be aggressive about getting Ovechkin back in the lineup?
Although he's officially a game time decision, it doesn’t sound like Ovechkin is playing tonight vs NYI. Asked if he’s optimistic for Game 1, Laviolette said: “I want to say I hope so but I don’t know. It depends on how things progress with him. It’s day-to-day right now.” #Caps
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) April 26, 2022
The Capitals could sit Ovechkin tonight for precautionary reasons — home fans will still get to see him in the pregame ceremony. And then the team can choose to either give him a game during the team’s back-to-back on Thursday and Friday or rest him until the playoffs start early next week.
Is this all clever gamesmanship ahead of puck drop? Is Laviolette trying to keep Barry Trotz or their first-round opponent’s head coach on their toes?
Regardless, the good news is that the Capitals appear to have dodged a serious injury to their best player.
FWIW: Saw Ovechkin just now. No sling. No brace. Posed for a photo with fans before jumping into his SUV and driving off. #Caps
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) April 26, 2022
And that’s enough for me at this point.
Update: Ovechkin addressed his status for the playoffs ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Islanders. He is not playing.
Alex Ovechkin on his injury and if he'll be ready for the playoffs to @RealSmokinAl: "I feel pretty good. We’ll see. I’m not gonna say yes or no. Right now we just make a decision to not play and we’ll see what happens next game."
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) April 26, 2022
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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