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Capitals' Ovechkin skates, says 'joking' led to report of extended absence

ARLINGTON, Va. - Alex Ovechkin says he was joking when he told a reporter over the weekend that he could be out more than a month.

The Washington Capitals star practised lightly Monday and said he would actually miss about a week.

He hasn't played since leaving a Nov. 1 game against Columbus after he was hurt in a scrum. The Capitals said last week that Ovechkin, whose 14 goals and 23 points lead the team, was week to week with what they called an upper-body problem.

Ovechkin, who was quoted by Yahoo! on Saturday night as saying he could miss four or five weeks, insisted his left shoulder was not affected by the still unspecified injury, animatedly flexing the joint and telling reporters with a smile, "The shoulder's fine, see?"

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau ruled Ovechkin out for Wednesday's home game against the New York Islanders, but held out hope that his superstar could be ready by the weekend. Washington hosts Minnesota on Friday and travels to New Jersey on Saturday.

"I know Alex's determination is he wants to play," Boudreau said. "I don't think Wednesday's an option, but I'm not counting anything out after that."

Added general manager George McPhee: "We'll see if he can play this weekend. There's that hope, but we want to be smart about it. ... He's a guy you almost have to hold back. You don't want any setbacks."

Ovechkin, wearing a yellow, non-contact jersey, joined his teammates about 55 minutes into Monday morning's practice.

He skated while the rest of the Capitals finished their workout, pausing briefly to autograph a jersey for a fan who opened a door in the practice rink and shoved it through, then took part in light shooting drills with assistant coach Bob Woods and teammate Eric Fehr once the rest of the team departed the ice.

Most of Ovechkin's attempts were wrist shots, though he did wind up on a couple of soft slap shots from long range, once raising his arms in his familiar celebratory pose after finding the net on a drive.

"It was easy shots, no hard ones," he said. "I don't want to rush my body to make some real hard shots."

Ovechkin reported none of the discomfort that forced him to cut short a Friday session in Sunrise, Fla.

"Now, it's no pain. It's progress, I think," he said. "I'm happy about it."

About an hour after practice ended, Ovechkin was back on the ice for a 15-minute skate with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish.

Also, Michael Nylander, who has not played this season because Boudreau doesn't think he fits into the team's system, cleared waivers Monday. McPhee said the Capitals were weighing their options with the veteran centre and hoped to have a resolution by Tuesday, when he plans to attend GM meetings in Toronto.

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