The Capitals received a welcome sight on Monday when center Mikhail Grabovski hopped on the ice for practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
Grabovski has sat out 20 of the last 21 games with a left ankle injury that he first sustained on Jan. 24 and re-injured when he returned to the lineup on Feb. 27 in the Caps’ first game back from the Olympic break.
“Today it felt not that strong, but it’s getting better,” Grabovski said after rotating onto a fourth line with center Chris Brown. “It’s not pain, it’s just not comfortable. Every day is better. I hope it comes soon, next week or this week."
Grabovski has 12 goals and 21 assists in 50 games with the Capitals this season.
The fact that he rotated on and off the third and fourth lines is an indication that Grabovski will not play against the Kings Tuesday night at Verizon Center. But hew could be back on Saturday against the Bruins.
“Hopefully, we can get him back sooner than later,” said Eric Fehr, who has been filling in quite nicely as a third-line center. “He’s one of the most offensively gifted guys we have. It’s nice to have a good puck possession guy in the lineup. We definitely miss him.”
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Goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who sat out Saturday night’s shootout win over the San Jose Sharks with a lower body injury, also practiced and Capitals coach Adam Oates said he expects Halak to be ready to play Tuesday night.
The Caps have 10 games remaining in their regular season and find themselves tied with the Detroit Red Wings and one point behind the Maple Leafs in the chase for the wild-card playoff spot.
Grabovski said he’s anxious to jump back into that playoff race, and not just for his sake.
“It’s hard to stay home without the team, it just makes my family crazy,” he said. “I miss the ice so much I’m going crazy by myself."
“It’s tough. Injuries are part of the job, but right now it feels better and I’m hoping this week I can help the team.”
The Capitals practiced with the same forward lines and defense pairings they used in San Jose:
Marcus Johansson – Jay Beagle – Alex Ovechkin
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Nicklas Backstrom – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Dustin Penner – Chris Brown – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Jack Hillen – Mike Green
Dmitry Orlov - Patrick Wey
Jaroslav Halak – Braden Holtby