T.J. Oshie is back.
The Caps’ star winger practiced with his teammates on Monday morning, marking the first time he’s been a full participant in a team setting since getting his head smashed into the boards by San Jose’s Joe Thornton on Dec. 4.
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Oshie resumed skating on Dec. 10 and has steadily been ramping up his level of intensity since.
If Oshie receives final clearance from doctors, he’ll suit up in Dallas on Tuesday night. And, as you might expect, he’s pretty excited about the possibility.
“I felt great,” said Oshie, who noted that this was the fourth documented head injury of his career. “They’ve got me in pretty good shape while I’ve been away. I feel ready.”
Although Coach Barry Trotz said a decision on Oshie’s status won’t be made until Tuesday morning, the fact that he took his normal spot on the right side of the second line with Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetsov is a strong indication that he’s expected to face the Stars.
Oshie was also back in his usual spot on the first unit power play, where he still leads the team in goals on the man advantage (7), despite missing six games.
Getting a player with Oshie’s skill set back represents a boost for the Caps, who went 5-1-0 while he was sidelined. But, on the flip side, it also means someone who has been playing well will have to come out of the lineup.
“The whole team is playing pretty good hockey right now,” Oshie said. “On the team side, you feel bad that someone is playing good hockey and they’re going to have to sit out.”
He added: “Hopefully I don’t mess up the mojo, but selfishly I want to get back in there and join in on some of the fun.”
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The odd man out on Monday, based on line rushes anyway, was Devante Smith-Pelly, who has not missed a game after winning a spot in training camp.
Here’s what the forward combos looked like at Kettler Capitals Iceplex:
Ovechkin – Backstrom – Wilson
Vrana – Kuznetsov – Oshie
Connolly – Eller – Burakovsky
Stephenson – Beagle – Chiasson
So the plan appears to be for Oshie to bump Chiasson down to the fourth line into Smith-Pelly’s spot.
With 13 healthy forwards, Trotz said deciding whom will sit out is going to be based on performance and/or role. But that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be an easy choice to make.
“If everybody's playing well,” he said, “I just have to make a tough decision, that’s all.”