As the Washington Capitals get ready to start the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday, they may be getting one of their veteran role players back. With their first game against the New York Rangers looming, winger Joel Ward has resumed practicing and could be ready to return to the lineup tonight, or at least at some point in the series. Ward has been out since Apr. 7 with a knee injury, and given his history of playoff heroics his addition to the lineup would be a big boost for the Capitals.
Ward was one of the better depth performers for the Capitals this season, scoring eight goals while recording 20 points before the injury. This will be his fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs, and he has experienced success there as both a member of the Nashville Predators and the Capitals. During the 2010-11 playoffs Ward scored seven goals while adding six assists for the Predators in 12 games. Last season he scored in overtime of the seventh game of the Capitals’ series with the Boston Bruins, propelling the team on to the second round. He also found out that being a playoff hero only lasts so long, as he took a costly penalty that led to a Rangers win in game five of the second round, turning the tide in that series.
With Alex Ovechkin playing some of the best hockey of his career, the Capitals are in great shape to start the postseason. The return of a veteran like Ward who has a proven track record of playoff success should put them in even better shape.