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Ovechkin skates but remains out for Capitals against Flyers

Forward misses seventh game in eight with lower-body injury

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Alex Ovechkin remained out of the lineup for the Washington Capitals against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday (NBCSWA+, NBCSP, NHL.TV) because of a lower-body injury.

The Capitals forward took part in an optional morning skate but will be out for the seventh time eight games because of the injury.

Ovechkin missed four games before returning to play one shift in a 6-3 win against the New York Rangers on Monday and did not play in a 4-2 win against New York on Wednesday.

"It's good to see him out there," Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. "That's always a positive sign. It's the first steps, so that's a good thing."

Ovechkin leads Washington with 24 goals in 44 games, and at 730 NHL goals is one from tying Marcel Dionne for fifth in history.

It is the 11th game Ovechkin has missed this season, including four while in NHL COVID-19 protocol Jan. 20-29. It's the most games he's missed in his 16-season NHL career. In 2009-10 he was out 10 games, six with a shoulder injury and four because of suspension.

Ovechkin hasn't missed more than four games in any other season.

Washington, which has clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, was four points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for first in the MassMutual East Division.

The Capitals play their final regular season game against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, and Laviolette said he is unsure if Ovechkin will be available.

"If Alex were 100 percent healthy and ready to go, I wouldn't keep him from the game," Laviolette said. "I think the tradeoff is whether a player is 100 percent or whether he's not 100 percent and another two to three to four days or whenever a playoff game might start (would help), I think that's what you're weighing out. So I'm not saying that he's not available to play against Boston. I don't know at this point. So you're looking at him for the first time out there today where he's getting pushed a little bit, so we'll go slow and make sure."

The NHL has not announced the playoff schedule. 

Laviolette said he wasn't concerned that Ovechkin might not play a full game before the start of the postseason.

"I don't think he needs a big warmup with what he's doing," Laviolette said. "He's out there. I think a lot of times when the guys are point getters, they want to feel the puck. They want to move the puck around. So for Alex it won't be a conditioning thing. It will be more just him making sure physically that he's ready. So being out on the ice and moving the puck around, I think that's what helps these guys."

The Capitals played their fourth straight game without center Evgeny Kuznetsov and goalie Ilya Samsonov; each is in COVID-19 protocol for the second time. Kuznetsov and Samsonov did not play Monday for disciplinary reasons and were in protocol Jan. 20-Feb. 7.

It is unclear whether Kuznetsov and Samsonov will be available when the Capitals begin the playoffs.

"You saw Ovi jump back Day One (after returning from protocol) and then I've seen others take longer," Laviolette said Friday. "I think that is person to person, how they come out of a situation or what they were on the list for. There's different things that go with that. I think we will just go slow with it and take things day to day."

Defenseman Justin Schultz returned to play Saturday after missing three games with a lower-body injury.

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