Caps unsure on Ovechkin's return; Poti practises

Capitals general manager George McPhee spoke to Alex Ovechkin on the phone but as of Thursday afternoon he was still unsure about the Russian forward's possible return to the lineup.

When will Alex Ovechkin be back in the lineup for the Washington Capitals?

General manager George McPhee spoke to Ovechkin on the phone, but as of Thursday afternoon he was still unsure about the Russian forward's possible return.

Ovechkin, the NHL's reigning MVP, was given permission to fly home to Russia on Monday morning so that he could be with his ailing grandfather.

He missed Tuesday night's shootout victory over the Nashville Predators. Washington's next game is Saturday in Buffalo against the Sabres.

Tuesday's contest against the Predators was only the second Ovechkin has missed since joining the Capitals four seasons ago. It also snapped a streak of 203 consecutive games played dating back to his rookie season of 2005-06.

Ovechkin has two goals and five points in eight games this season.

The Capitals did receive some good news Thursday, as defenceman Tom Poti returned to practice after missing the past two weeks with a groin injury. Poti last played on Oct. 16 against Pittsburgh, and has missed five games.

Neither Poti nor coach Bruce Boudreau was sure whether he would play against Buffalo

"We've missed him a lot," Boudreau told reporters Thursday. "He's such a good defensive defenceman, and he's such a good fit. He's the second unit on the power play and the first unit on the penalty kill. He's a 25-minute-a-night guy. Any team would miss somebody like that."

Boudreau said he's in no rush to get Poti back into the lineup.

"It's something we don't want to push," Boudreau said. "We want him back dearly, but at the same time, we want it to be a one-time injury only."

With files from Associated Press