Oshie eyeing return to Capitals’ lineup against Bruins
In Tuesday’s morning skate, Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie, who has been out of the Capitals’ lineup with an upper body injury since Nov. 19, donned a red jersey, signifying he would be on the ice as one of the top six forwards.
During drills, Oshie gathered a puck and drove toward the net, colliding with goaltender Braden Holtby. Oshie bounced up from the collision no worse for wear.
“It’s been a pretty good progression, getting better, getting better, pushing it,” Oshie said. “If it was sore, we’d back off. Everything has been positive so far. We’re definitely moving in the right direction, so we’ll talk to [coach Barry Trotz] and the doctor and see where we go.”
Oshie said he didn’t feel limited and that his stamina was fine during practice, after slowly building toward more contact drills over the last couple of days. On Monday, he tested the injury in drills with defenseman Nate Schmidt and forward Brett Connolly.
“Me and [Schmidt] and [Connolly] were doing battle drills in the corner,” Oshie said. “I told Schmidty not to let up on me — I hope he didn’t — and it felt good. It’s still day-by-day, but we’ll see where we get tomorrow morning.”
The decision to return Oshie to the lineup hasn’t been official, but the fact that he is practicing in full, was given a line within the Capitals’ top six and was doing drills with the top power-play unit suggests Oshie suits up against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.
“We’ll make that decision tomorrow,” Trotz said. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow. He’s possible.”
Should Oshie play, the Capitals will be getting back a crucial player at a critical point in their season. Since Oshie exited the Nov. 18 game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Capitals have gone 3-3-1. He’s also one of the team’s better penalty killers and power-play threats. Oshie’s job on the power play is to situate himself right in front of the net, looking for rebounds, deflections or one-timer opportunities from passes behind the net.
Without Oshie, the Capitals have scored just five goals on 28 power play opportunities, a big reason why the unit is converting on only 15.2 percent of power plays this season — 23rd in the NHL. Over the last previous five seasons, the Capitals have scored on 22.6 percent of their power play opportunities, more than any other NHL franchise in that time frame and two percent more than the franchise with the second-highest success rate: the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Without a doubt, I think Osh, in that diamond spot, is as good as anybody in the National Hockey League,” Trotz said. “I think he’s tenacious, I think he understands that position. I think his retrievals, keeping pucks alive for sustained pressure is exceptional. And then his hand skills to make something out of nothing to keep that power play alive is one of the best. So, all that being said, I think he could make a huge difference on our power play.”
The 14-7-3 Capitals take on the 15-10-1 Bruins Wednesday at 8 p.m.