Alex Ovechkin misses Sunday practice; injury not considered “long-term” | Professional: All sports

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was not on the ice for Sunday practice due to a lower-body injury sustained in Friday’s preseason final. Ovechkin is seen on a day-to-day basis after being reassessed on Saturday.

Ovechkin watched part of Sunday’s practice from the Capitals bench. He walked around without limping or visibly wrapping his left leg.

Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said on Sunday he didn’t believe Ovechkin’s injury was long-term and that there was still a possibility he would play in the Capitals’ season opener on Wednesday against the New York Rangers.

“We’re going to start to see if he comes back here and how it evolves over the next few days,” Laviolette said.

Ovechkin’s lower body injury occurred in the first period of the preseason final against Philadelphia and he did not return. The captain took a while to get up and went straight to the locker room after delivering a hit on Travis Konecny. It appears Ovechkin’s left leg struck Konecny ​​awkwardly, and the 36-year-old suffered a severe limp as he left the ice.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he was back for Game 1,” said center Lars Eller. “He always, for some reason, he never seems to be away for long, even, you know, no matter what he’s dealing with. I know he really wants it. He doesn’t like to miss matches. He doesn’t want to take the game away, he wants to play. So if there’s a chance he can, he’ll be there and I hope he will.

If Ovechkin can’t play on Wednesday, the team will miss two of their organizational pillars.

Nicklas Backstrom did not skate during training camp while rehabilitating his left hip, and there is no timeline for his return. The team could put Backstrom on the long-term injury reserve if they need to clear more headroom, but Backstrom is expected to miss a minimum of 10 games and 24 days.

The team have already taken the first steps to clear part of the ceiling space on Saturday by placing Michal Kempny on waivers. Kempny cleared the waivers on Sunday and is posted to the team’s branch in the American Hockey League in Hershey, Pa. The defender has had a tough training camp, having tried to recover from three major injuries in the past two and a half years. The move wipes out $ 1.125 million from Kempny’s $ 2.5 million salary.

“We really think it’s important that he plays and that he finds his game and gets his game back.… Right now, if he’s not in our top six, that means he’s not don’t play, and I just don’t feel like it feels good to him, ”Laviolette said.

With Ovechkin and Backstrom both missing practice on Sunday, Connor McMichael took the front row instead of Ovechkin alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson. Hendrix Lapierre took center stage in the third line between TJ Oshie and Conor Sheary. Laviolette noted that he believed Lapierre’s line on Friday night was effective and the trio worked well together.

“Everyone will have to step up,” said Anthony Mantha, when asked where the team’s confidence level is if Ovechkin and Backstrom aren’t ready for Wednesday. “Obviously those are the two biggest parts of our squad and everyone just needs to step forward and try to fill as much as they can. I think at the end of the day we have so much depth in this team that I think we will be able to do [it]. “

McMichael and Lapierre were battling to fill an open center position with Backstrom likely to miss some time early in the season.

Laviolette said he was not sure what the line combinations would be if Ovechkin was out, but noted that veterans like to play with younger players, like McMichael and Lapierre. Laviolette said McMichael on the front row was just a “starting point” and the 20-year-old “looked out of place”.

“I’ve talked to some of the veteran players, they like to play with these guys,” Laviolette said. “They are young, they are qualified, they are talented. You put veteran players with them and I really feel like that helps. You load up a line with young players and he’s inexperienced and I think that can lead to issues as well, so sometimes it’s good to mix things up a bit.

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