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NHL Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin May Return to the Washington Capitals Lineup to Face New York Islanders

Alex Ovechkin

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals take on the New York Islanders at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night, looking to extend their two-game winning streak. They may do so with their best player in uniform after Alex Ovechkin took to the practice ice on Monday morning.

The Capitals (7-7-0) have looked like a team not missing their superstar winger, thrashing the Philadelphia Flyers 7-0 on Friday night before dispatching the Florida Panthers 3-2 in a shootout the following night. That’s not to say that they would not welcome back their leader and offensive powerhouse. Had he played against the Flyers, the score might have been 10-0.

Ovechkin suffered a shoulder injury when he crashed into the net during the first period of the Caps’ game against the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 28. His absences on Friday and Saturday marked only the 13th and 14th times that Ovechkin had sat out due to injury in his 10-year NHL career with the Caps.

What occurred while the Great Eight was sidelined is astonishing considering that the Caps were 0-for-4 when Ovi hadn’t scored prior to the Flyers game. The boys in red took the Flyers apart in Philadelphia to the point that the home team was so frustrated with their own efforts they dropped the gloves against any Cap who looked at them funny.

Fisticuffs aside, the Caps’ performances in Philadelphia and at home against Florida were uplifting and bode well for the future. Coach Adam Oates has formed a third line that looks like it should be the first line. Jason Chimera, Mikhail Grabovski and Joel Ward have combined for nine of the team’s 18 even-strength goals since Oct. 18 when they first took to the ice together.

In the Philadelphia game, Ward scored his first ever NHL hat trick, and he and his linemates accounted for 10 points over the 60 minutes. That is amazing stuff. The Florida game was a little uglier with the Caps recording only three shots through the opening 16 minutes of play. Washington’s penalty-kill unit was also on the ice way too much and a reckless slashing penalty against Steve Oleksy late in the third let Florida tie up the score at 2-2 and forced overtime.

Still, Ovechkin— if he returns for Tuesday’s Islanders game — returns to a team that has done pretty well without him. His coach acknowledged as much on Saturday.

“You’re still patching the dike, in a sense,” Oates said. “You don’t want to miss anybody in your lineup, let alone your star. But it proves that your team is still a solid hockey team, and you can do a lot of good things.”

For their part, the Islanders (6-5-3) are the only team besides the Pittsburgh Penguins (11-4-0) with a winning record in the surprisingly weak new Metropolitan Division. The Caps look to get over .500 on Tuesday night.

G.J. Cosker is a Washington Capitals writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, “like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.