Joel Ward Participates In First Postseason Practice, Hopes To Return For Game 1

The Capitals held their first postseason practice Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex as they prepare for their first-round series against the Rangers, which opens Thursday at Verizon Center.

Forward Joel Ward, who has not played since April 7 after suffering a left knee contusion blocking a shot, fully participated, working through drills on the team's fourth line.

“I’ve upgraded from baby blue," Ward said with a laugh, referring to the jersey color that he selected as he continued to test his injury. "I was pretty excited to get out of that jersey quickly. It was good to be in a white [fourth-line] jersey, slowly getting back into it and feeling a part of it.”

The four-day break between the Capitals' last regular-season game Saturday and Game 1 Thursday is something that Ward certainly relishes considering his situation.

“I’m hoping to [return for Game 1]," Ward said. "Obviously we’ll see how these next couple days go. I think my mind feels pretty good, it’s just I want to get in with the guys and kind of muck it up a little bit. I think the next couple days will be a pretty good test.”

Coach Adam Oates did not confirm a Thursday return for Ward, adding that "he still needs practices" before he deems him fit to compete.

Meanwhile, Oates said that forward Brooks Laich, who is recovering from sports hernia surgery, will resume skating "as soon as possible." The 29-year-old missed all but nine games this season with a nagging groin injury.

Oates, however, expects Laich to return to the lineup at some point during the postseason, obviously depending on how far Washington goes.

Here were the foward combinations and defensive pairings:

Marcus Johansson - Nick Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin

Martin Erat - Mike Ribeiro - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Mathieu Perreault - Eric Fehr

Aaron Volpatti -  Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Joel Ward - Wojtek Wolski

Karl Alzner - Mike Green

John Erskine -  John Carlson

Jack Hillen -  Steven Oleksy

Jeff Schultz - Tom Poti

Goal: Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth.

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