Coral Springs, Fla. ( Associated Press) — Alex Ovechkin and Aaron Eckblad both practiced on Sunday. They are excellent developments for the Washington Capitals and the Florida Panthers.
All signs indicate that Ovechkin was in the lineup for Game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round series against the Panthers on Tuesday night after missing the final three games of the regular season with what the team called an upper body injury. has been And Eckblad, who missed Florida’s final 21 games with a knee injury, looks like he may be back for Game 1 as well.
“We’ll see,” said Ovechkin, smiling whether he would play.
Ovechkin skated to Washington’s top row in practice with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Conor Sheery on Sunday and reported feeling good. The 36-year-old Russian superstar feels he would have played last week if he had a playoff game.
Ekblad – Florida’s top defender – was able to take part in a full practice boost to the Panthers.
“It was great,” said Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas. “He also had some great line rushes, right away. It was fun to see him back and feel confident. … He’s been our leader since Game 1. He’s been the biggest part of our back end and that’s all season long.” There was a stud. We’re really looking forward to getting him back. Obviously, it will be difficult for him to jump into Game 1 right away, but if anyone can handle it he is.
The Panthers have some more questions on the injury front. Leading scorer Jonathan Huberdeau missed Sunday’s practice, with the team calling it a “maintenance day” for him and Mason Marchment.
Florida interim coach Andrew Brunett said Ekblad was likely to play on Tuesday. They didn’t think Huberdeau and Marchante would miss Game 1, but there were still some doubts to be cleared.
“With Hubby, I got to hear back today and Marchi, I’m looking forward to Game 1,” Shyamala said. “but I’m not sure.”
Ovechkin slammed the first left shoulder against Toronto last Sunday and did not return. After getting some time to rest, he looked no worse for wear in the Capitals’ first pre-playoff practice.
“He’s had a good day,” Washington coach Peter LaViolet said. “He didn’t shy away from anything, so we hope he keeps going.”
Ovechkin has lost only 27 games during his 17-year NHL career and none in the playoffs. He scored 50 goals this past season, topping the team and fourth in the league.
“Obviously he is the best goal scorer in the league, and goals are important,” said Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov. “You can see (in) the last three matches we didn’t score very much. Of course we need him as a captain, as a leader, as our goal-scorer, so we need everyone right now, everyone is healthy, so that’s good.”
The Panthers were not caught off-guard by Ovechkin’s practice. He expected to meet her on Tuesday anyway.
“Yes, 100%,” said the brunette. “I didn’t think of anything else.”
Associated Press Hockey writer Stephen Whynow in Arlington, Virginia, contributed to this story.
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