Washington Capitals superstar forward Alex Ovechkin likely will miss at least one more game, but could return as soon as Friday from the upper-body strain that has sidelined him since Nov. 1.
Ovechkin skated on his own Monday at the Caps' practice facility and reported less pain than he had been feeling.
"When I do some moves sometimes there's some pain, but right now, like what I do in Florida and here, it's not pain," Ovechkin said following practice. "This is progress I think and I'm happy right now about it."
When he skated last week in Florida, it was too painful for Ovechkin to use his stick. On Monday, though, he took shots.
"No pain. It was easy shots, not hard," Ovechkin said. "I don't want to rush my body to make some real hard shots or wrist shots. Getting used to it and it's getting better."
Capitals General Manager George McPhee said Ovechkin likely won't make enough progress to play Wednesday against the New York Islanders, but Friday's game against the Minnesota Wild or Saturday against the New Jersey Devils are possibilities.
"He's doing well," McPhee said. "As we said it'll be week to week. We weren't sure he could play this past weekend and we'll see if he can play this weekend. He's that close, but we'll be smart about it. He's probably out Wednesday, but you just never know with this player. We'll be careful with him."
Ovechkin has missed the last three games; he had missed a total of four games in his first four seasons.
"I know Alex's determination is he wants to play," said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. "I don't think Wednesday is an option, but I'm not counting anything out after that."
McPhee also dismissed an Internet report where Ovechkin was quoted as saying he would need 4-5 weeks more to recover.
"Nothing's changed," he said. "We said it was week to week -- might be one, might be two, but if it's a little more than that it's acceptable. But it won't be 4-5 weeks."
Ovechkin said he wasn't sure when he would be back, but when asked about playing Saturday, he said, "I want to go out as soon as possible."
McPhee said the club would rather keep the two-time Hart Trophy winner out too long than rush him back just because the player said he's ready.
"He's a guy you almost have to hold back a little bit," McPhee said. "What you don't want is setbacks and it bothering him longer than it should. Hold him out until it's right so he can get in and play and not think about it again or have to worry about it the rest of the season."
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