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T.J. Oshie returns to the Capitals’ lineup and is honored for playing in 1,000 NHL games

WASHINGTON (AP) — T.J. Oshie returned to the Washington Capitals’ lineup Sunday, getting back just in time for the ceremony honoring his milestone of playing in 1,000 NHL games.

And, more importantly, at a crucial juncture of the season, with his team trying desperately to make the playoffs.

Oshie was back against Winnipeg for game No. 70 of 82 after missing the past two because of injury. The 37-year-old winger has been out off and on in recent months dealing with nagging back problems that have threatened to derail his career.

“I know he’s had a lot of injuries, but he’s a big part of, especially their success when they won the Cup,” said Jets assistant Scott Arniel, who was on staff with Washington for four seasons coaching Oshie. “He’s an unbelievable professional to work with, a first-class person, first-class father, teammate, all that stuff.”

Especially with Tom Wilson serving a six-game suspension, the Capitals could use a healthy Oshie down the stretch. Their next game Tuesday at home against Detroit is pivotal in the Eastern Conference playoff race, chasing the Red Wings for a wild-card spot.

“I find even of late, we’re missing a little bit of his poise with the puck, his veteran presence on the ice when things get a little bit scrambly,” coach Spencer Carbery said. “He can calm things down because he can find a way out of a situation with a lot of poise and calmness. … He handles those situations as good as anybody I’ve been around with his poise.”

Capitals players wore No. 77 jerseys during pregame warmups that will be autographed and auctioned, with proceeds going to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation. Oshie’s dad, Tim, died of the disease, which he was struggling with when father and son shared an emotional moment on the ice in Las Vegas when Washington won the Stanley Cup in 2018.

Oshie is in his ninth season with the Capitals after playing his first seven with the St. Louis Blues. The Warroad, Minnesota, native played in his 1,000th regular-season game on March 16 at Vancouver.

Master of ceremonies Joe Beninati called Oshie “the heart of the Capitals” as he and his teammates, including sidelined center Nicklas Backstrom, gathered around him for a photo. Oshie’s goal song, John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” played over the arena speakers.

The ceremony came just over 10 years after Oshie gained fame for his shootout performance at the Sochi Olympics when he made four of six attempts in a U.S. victory over host Russia.

“He’s one of the elite players in the league,” Arniel said. “A lot of people (know about him), not only his NHL career but what he did at the Olympics, the shootout stuff that happened, him scoring all those goals in all the different ways.

“He’s got some unbelievable hands — some of the best I’ve seen in some of the guys I’ve coached. His ability to do things with that stick is amazing, not only just the shootouts but tipping pucks. You watch him in practice tip pucks with the blade of his stick and the knob of his stick, and you get about 10 for 10. He has an elite set of hands, and he has a great personality, too.”

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