SPRINGFIELD - The sling is still a thing for Capitals forward T.J. Oshie.
On April 19, Oshie underwent surgery on his fractured right clavicle following a shove into the boards from behind in the final minutes of Game 4 of a Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Oshie missed the final three games of that series and watched helplessly as Washington was eliminated in double overtime of Game 7. He still winces sometimes when bumped on the healing collarbone. The sling is supposed to serve as a warning to stay away, but that doesn't always work so well.
But Oshie is looking forward. He took some time to decompress after the disappointing injury and the loss to the Hurricanes. His season really ended April 18, after all, so the fire to return to the ice is already there. Oshie has spent the past two weeks getting his legs back into shape. And while it will be some time yet before he can do upper-body work - no weights or gripping anything until about the middle of June - that still leaves a full summer to get ready for 2019-20 when the Capitals figure to be a contender again.
"We're about a month away from me being able to do full-body workouts, but I'll be flying on all cylinders when mid-September comes around" said Oshie, speaking Thursday at a STRIVERS event at The St. James, a sports, wellness and entertainment facility in Springfield that was introducing its upscale lifestyle and performance apparel, gear and tech line. Redskins tight end Vernon Davis was also in attendance.
Training camp seems like a long way away. But Oshie thinks the extra rest will be good for a team that never really had time off last summer after winning the Stanley Cup in 2018. The championship celebration, the parade, the loss of coach Barry Trotz, free agency and each player's day with the Stanley Cup all blurred together. It seemed like they were all right back at MedStar Iceplex for the start of the new season.
"When we saw each other last year for training camp, it felt like ‘Hey – good to see you. Been a couple of weeks,'" Oshie joked. "It was longer than that, but it's what it felt like. So the hugs were still kind of hugs of ‘We're champions still.' This year when we show up it's gonna be hugs because of ‘I miss you. It's been a while. Let's get to work and be ready to try to get a title again.'"
Oshie, unlike past years, will spend most of the summer in Washington with his wife, Lauren, and daughters, Lyla and Leni. He said he's keeping tabs on his former team, the St. Louis Blues. That's where he spent the first seven years of his career before the 2015 trade to Washington.
There are 10 players still with St. Louis from when Oshie was there. He sees the parallels between the Capitals' 44-year wait for that elusive first Stanley Cup and Blues fans waiting 52 for the Cup. St. Louis is down 2-1 to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final after a controversial overtime loss in Game 3, but Game 4 is tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Network.
"There's a lot of guys there I went to battle with on a nightly basis," Oshie said. "It's nice seeing them contend and fighting and clawing their way to the finish line."
The Blues are in a fight for Oshie's affections, however. Marcus Johansson was a teammate for his first two years with the Capitals. After missing out last year following a trade from Washington Johansson will play in the Stanley Cup Final with the Boston Bruins, who clinched the Eastern Conference on Thursday night with a series sweep of Carolina.
David Backes, also with the Bruins now, was a Blues' captain during Oshie's time there. He, too, will play for the Cup for the first time. Justin Williams also played two years in Washington with Oshie, still good friends with the man they call ‘Stick' but not quite over losing to Williams' Hurricanes yet.
"I love Stick, but after Carolina beat us you kind of want to see them lose," Oshie said. "But it will be exciting to the end…[St. Louis and Washington] I've loved and one thing both didn't have was a championship. To see the way this city rallied around the Stanley Cup last year - there's more people here, but I imagine it would be pretty big there, too. And there's a lot of people in that [Blues] crowd that have had season tickets since Day One. It would be pretty special for them to hoist the Cup in St. Louis."
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