ARLINGTON, Va. - The Washington Capitals aren't sure when Alex Ovechkin will be back in the lineup.
General manager George McPhee spoke to the NHL's reigning MVP on the telephone but as of Thursday afternoon did not have an updated timetable for Ovechkin's possible return.
Ovechkin, who led the league in goals and points last season while helping Washington win the Southeast Division title, left the area Monday to travel to Russia so he could spend time with his ailing grandfather.
He missed Tuesday night's shootout victory over the Nashville Predators. Washington's next game is Saturday at the Buffalo Sabres.
The Capitals did get some good news Thursday: Defenceman Tom Poti returned to practice after sitting out two weeks with a groin injury.
Neither Poti nor coach Bruce Boudreau was sure whether he would play against Buffalo.
"Not 100 per cent yet, but it feels way better than it did," Poti said, adding that he was sore. "We'll see how it feels in the morning."
He last played Oct. 16 against Pittsburgh, sitting out the past five games.
"We've missed him a lot. He's such a good defensive defenceman, and he's such a good fit. He's the second unit on the power play and the first unit on the penalty kill," Boudreau said. "He's a 25-minute-a-night guy. Any team would miss somebody like that."
Still, the coach doesn't want to put Poti back on the ice if he isn't ready.
"It's something we don't want to push," Boudreau said. "We want him back dearly, but at the same time, we want it to be a one-time injury only."
Bringing Poti back would allow Boudreau to cut back on defenceman Mike Green's playing time. Green ranks fourth in the NHL in minutes per game.
"When Tom comes in, he's going to eat up some of those minutes, for sure," Boudreau said.
Notes: Forwards Sergei Fedorov and Viktor Kozlov were excused from practice.