The Washington Capitals are starving for offense and desperate for a victory after combining for eight goals amid their current five-game losing streak.
Having leading goal scorer Alex Ovechkin back in the lineup would definitely help their cause.
Coach Peter Laviolette confirmed Thursday morning that Ovechkin will return when the Capitals host the Anaheim Ducks later that night in Washington, D.C. He has missed the past four games following the death of his father in Russia.
“I think Alex wants to come back and help our team be successful, whatever that means,” Laviolette said Thursday, “whether it’s him scoring three goals or one goal or just playing a great game and our team winning the hockey game. That’s probably first and foremost on his list, but I’m sure he wants to come back and have a presence in the game.”
Ovechkin skated for approximately 45 minutes on Thursday.
“Obviously it was a hard week mentally, physically,” Ovechkin said. “It was probably toughest situation I’ve been through my whole NHL career. But it’s life, and we move on.”
The Capitals are two points out of the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, with two teams between them and the final playoff spot.
The visiting Detroit Red Wings beat Washington 3-1 on Tuesday, pulling even with the Capitals in points but ahead of them in the standings because of their two games in hand. The Pittsburgh Penguins also sit between the Capitals and the final wild-card spot.
“We’ve got to find a way here, and there’s a good chunk of games left,” said Washington winger Tom Wilson, who has scored in back-to-back games since returning from a seven-game absence because of a lower-body injury. “We’ve got to turn this around right now, start putting together some wins.”
Washington’s problem has been a lack of scoring. The Capitals have been limited to one goal or fewer in 29 of their past 31 periods.
“We’ve still got to find a way to put the puck in the net,” Laviolette said. “It’s not falling for us right now.”
The return of Ovechkin should help.
The 37-year-old future Hall of Famer has 32 goals and 54 points on the season. He’s 82 goals from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s NHL career record.
Washington will be without one of its more physical players as forward Anthony Mantha was placed on injured reserve Thursday. He sustained an upper-body injury against the Red Wings and left in the second period.
The Ducks are mired in a six-game losing streak in which they’ve been outscored 36-15.
Anaheim has been without its lone All-Star representative, right wing Troy Terry, for the past seven games because of an upper-body injury. In a 6-1 loss at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, forward Adam Henrique left with a lower-body injury and did not return.
Henrique, tied for the team lead with 19 goals, will miss Thursday’s game and is considered week-to-week. Defenseman John Klingberg will also miss the Caps’ game.
The Ducks have shown they can play well in spurts on this trip.
They took an early 2-0 lead against the Florida Panthers in the opener of the four-game trip on Monday, but ultimately lost 4-3 in overtime, despite getting 51 saves from goalie John Gibson.
Anaheim played a scoreless first period against the Lightning on Tuesday, but the Ducks were outshot 22-1 in the second period and gave up four goals in a 6:15 span before eventually losing 6-1.
“Unfortunately, the way our team is this year, we have to almost play a perfect game to beat a team like this,” Ducks center Ryan Strome said.
–Field Level Media