The Washington Capitals announced prior to Wednesday’s game against the Nashville Predators (7 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington in-market, ESPN+ out-of-market) that centers Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom in addition to right-wing T.J. Oshie have been activated off of the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
Also, right-wing Tom Wilson has been activated off of injured reserve and defenseman Alexander Alexeyev and right-wing Brett Leason have both been recalled from the taxi squad. Center Michael Sgarbossa was also assigned to the taxi squad after clearing waivers.
#Caps activate Nicklas Backstrom (COVID protocol), Evgeny Kuznetsov (COVID protocol), TJ Oshie (COVID protocol) and Tom Wilson (IR). In addition, #Caps recall Alex Alexeyev and Brett Leason from the taxi squad and assign Michael Sgarbossa to the taxi squad.
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) December 29, 2021
Kuznetsov missed the Capitals’ final three games before the NHL paused the season after the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights game at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday due to COVID-19. Backstrom, who made his season debut in a 5-4 overtime loss at the Chicago Blackhawks on December 15 after missing 28 games with a hip injury, missed the final two while Oshie missed the team’s 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on December 19.
Kuznetsov ranks second on the Capitals in goals (nine), assists (21), and points (30) in 28 games this season.
Oshie, who has missed 17 games with two lower-body injuries and time on COVID-19 protocol, did not participate in Tuesday’s practice but did in Wednesday’s, though it was optional. He has earned four goals and 11 points in 14 games.
Alexeyev, who has a goal, four points, and a +1 rating in 24 games with the AHL’s Hershey Bears this season, is expected to make his NHL debut vs. the Predators with Martin Fehervary on COVID-19 protocol. He was the Capitals’ first-round pick (31st overall) in 2018.
Wilson, 27, missed the team’s final four games before the pause with a lower-body injury after crashing into goaltender Tristan Jarry in the second period of the Capitals’ 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 10. He has nine goals and 24 points in 27 games.
With defenseman Nick Jensen and Justin Schultz out due to COVID-19 protocol, Michal Kempny (seven assists, -3 rating in 24 AHL games) will play in his first NHL game since August 14, 2020 while Matt Irwin will also slide into the lineup.
Leason has three goals and six points in 24 NHL games and one goal in six AHL games.
By Harrison Brown