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Oshie healthy, eager to help Capitals make another run at Stanley Cup

Forward recovered from broken clavicle, confident in veteran core

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- T.J. Oshie is healthy and eagerly awaiting the start of Washington Capitals training camp next month after recovering from a fractured right clavicle that cut short his Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

After the Capitals' bid to repeat as Stanley Cup champions last season ended with a seven-game loss the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference First Round, Oshie has spent most of the offseason in the Washington area healing and training to get ready for this season.

"I was cleared kind of (in) June, but definitely cleared in July," the forward said. "So we were right on pace, I think, to being close (to playing) if we would have made it to the [Stanley Cup] Final. But I'm good. Now it's just all getting those muscles built back up as best as I can before the season and I'm ready to roll. I can't wait for it to get here."

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Oshie, who was fifth on the Capitals with 54 points (25 goals, 29 assists) in 69 games last season, said his offseason training has been "really normal" other than additional emphasis on building upper-body muscle. The 32-year-old fractured his clavicle when he was boarded by forward Warren Foegele during the third period of Game 4 against Carolina and had surgery April 19 hoping he'd be ready to play if Washington reached the Cup Final.

That possibility ended with a 4-3 loss in the second overtime of Game 7, leaving Oshie a long, peaceful offseason to recover. It's been in stark contrast to the 2018 offseason, which was filled with Stanley Cup celebrations and was much shorter after Washington's season didn't end until a 4-3 win against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Cup Final on June 7.

With no family trips planned, Oshie has kept busy by training with Capitals defenseman John Carlson. Oshie was at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Monday for a Skate and Skills clinic with players ages 15-19 sponsored by AAA to promote its Don't Drive Intexticated campaign against texting while driving. 

"I find that you miss it a little bit more when you're like this," Oshie said. "Like right now, I feel like it's time to get going, time for the season to get going."

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It's been an offseason of change for the Capitals, who lost defensemen Brooks Oprik (retired) and Matt Niskanen (traded to the Philadelphia Flyers), and forwards Andre Burakovsky (traded to the Colorado Avalanche), Brett Connolly (signed with the Florida Panthers) and Devante Smith-Pelly (unrestricted free agent).

There will be some new faces in training camp, including defenseman Radko Gudas, who was acquired from the Flyers for Niskanen, and forwards Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic, who each was signed as an unrestricted free agent.

"It's going to be different," Oshie said. "We've still got a good core, so I don't expect too much to change in the locker room. But when you lose a guy like Orpik or Niskanen, guys that have been around for a while that have won, it's different. And good friends and great people. So I'm excited to meet the new guys and see what they're able to bring to the table and bring them onboard."

Oshie said he had mixed emotions watching the St. Louis Blues win the Stanley Cup last season. Oshie, who was selected by the Blues with the No. 24 pick in the 2005 NHL Draft and played seven seasons for them before being traded to Washington on July 2, 2015, said he was happy to see his former team win its first championship. 

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Oshie offered his congratulations to some of his former teammates on FaceTime the day after the Blues won the Cup with a 4-1 win against the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Cup Final. But seeing another team celebrate brought home the reality that it no longer belongs to the Capitals.

"There's a different type of motivation," Oshie said. "Before it was like, 'This is ours. Let's keep it.' Now we didn't play St. Louis, they didn't take it from us, but that's kind of the feeling that you get. So our year will be, hopefully, a little bit more focused on getting that drive back to reclaim it and hopefully bring another Cup to D.C."

Although the Capitals didn't add any big names, Oshie mentioned to their core, which includes forwards Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Carlson and goalie Braden Holtby, as the main reason he believes they will be Cup contenders again. 

"We kind of like it when people think that we're maybe not on the radar [as much as] some of these other teams because we haven't made all these moves," Oshie said. "But you look at what some of our guys are capable of. … We've got world-class players. What we really need is guys to follow them and jump on board and I really like our chances."

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