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Capitals slowly returning to full health

by Corey Masisak
COLUMBUS -- After the Washington Capitals made four trades on deadline day, Bruce Boudreau had 25 players at his disposal and depth to combat any situation.

A rash of injuries has tested that depth, but the Capitals are close to having a full complement of healthy bodies in time to fine-tune the lineup for the postseason.

"Two weeks ago everyone was talking about all the depth we had and now we've got all these guys who are injured and might still be a couple games away," center David Steckel said. "It is important for us to start the playoffs with a clean slate health-wise and hopefully everyone can get back and rehabbed in a timely fashion."

Brooks Laich had missed the previous four games after taking a puck off his face in practice, but he returned Thursday against Ottawa. Boudreau said forwards Scott Walker (knee) and Boyd Gordon (back) and defenseman John Carlson (upper body) could be ready to play either Monday against Boston or Tuesday at Pittsburgh.

Brendan Morrison (lower body) isn't likely to be back until one of the team's final two games of the season. As it stands now, the Capitals have only one extra player and defensemen John Erskine and Tyler Sloan have been rotating in that spot.

"I'd like them all back to know if and when we play them that they are all healthy," Boudreau said. "We have a back-to-back next week and I'd like to not have to play all of our guys in both of those games. I think when your body is tired is when you are most susceptible to injury."

In previous weeks before the injuries Boudreau was using the cushion Washington has forged in the standings and the extra players to help rest some of his veterans. Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Mike Knuble are the only guys on the team who have not missed a game, either because of injury or as a healthy scratch, since the Olympic break.

"That's an ideal world but injuries happen," Laich said. "I don't know if [Boudreau] is really set on his playoff lineup. I think we're still working on some combinations, but it would be nice to have a consistent lineup going in just so everybody knows their role and what to expect going in."

"I wanted to get back for sure before the playoffs because I didn't want to get thrown in then. It is tough to say to a player who has been off for a length of time, 'Don't be rusty.' Because in the playoffs we can't afford to give someone time to shake rust off -- if you turn the puck over, maybe it goes in the net and maybe that's the difference."
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