Capitals forward Joel Ward, who missed the last nine games of the regular season with a left knee injury, will return to the lineup for Thursday's Game 1 against the Rangers at Verizon Center.
“Yeah, I get a chance to play," Ward said. “I’m excited, for sure, that I get to reunite with my buddies. I’m pretty happy about that.”
Throughout his career, Ward has played his best hockey under the bright lights of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In 32 career postseason games, the 32-year-old has scored 10 goals to go along with 12 assists, none bigger than his series-clinching overtime goal in Game 7 of Washington's first-round series against Boston last season.
“He had a good series last year, a good playoffs last year, a big goal to win the Boston series,” forward Troy Brouwer said. “When he was in Nashville, he had a lot of timely goals, key goals. So he’s a clutch guy; he’s that guy that pressure and the intensity of playoffs don’t really faze him.”
Ward will certainly be seeking redemption against the Rangers; his double-minor high-sticking penalty in the waning moments of Game 5 ultimately cost the Capitals a chance to take a 3-2 series lead back to Washington with an opportunity to close out the series. New York won the second-round series in seven games.
Ward will rejoin the fourth line and replace Aaron Volpatti.
Here is the rest of the lineup ahead of Thursday's game. Puck drop is tentatively scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Martin Erat – Mike Ribeiro – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Mathieu Perreault – Eric Fehr
Matt Hendricks – Jay Beagle – Joel Ward
Karl Alzner – Mike Green
John Erskine – John Carlson
Jack Hillen – Steve Oleksy
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