Alex Ovechkin takes leave from Caps, Auston Matthews close to return, and more

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is taking a leave of absence to attend to a family matter and the health of a loved one, the team announced Tuesday.

General manager Brian MacLellan and head coach Peter Laviolette confirmed the superstar forward will be out for at least the rest of this week. Laviolette added the team does not expect Ovechkin back “in the foreseeable future.” Specific details were not disclosed.

Alex Ovechkin takes leave from Caps

“Listen, it’s tough sometimes,” Laviolette said via “Life is tough and when it comes to family and parents, that’s what matters. He’s gonna go deal with some things right now and we’re going to be supportive.”

Ovechkin, 37, addressed the team before departing on Tuesday morning. It wasn’t clear whether he would return to Russia, where his parents and other family members live.

He has 54 points (32 goals, 22 assists) in 54 games this season. With 812 career goals, the three-time Hart Trophy winner trails only Wayne Gretzky (894) on the NHL’s career chart.

The Capitals recalled forward Joe Snively from the AHL’s Hershey Bears in a corresponding move. He has one assist in six games this season with Washington.

The Capitals currently hold the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. They are just one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and two points clear of the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders heading into Tuesday’s game against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.

Auston Matthews close to return for Leafs

auston matthews 60
Apr 26, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) celebrates after scoring his 60th goal of the season during the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews practiced in a regular blue sweater Tuesday, meaning the All-Star center be close to returning.

He has been out since Jan. 25 with a sprained knee.

Matthews, 25, skated on a line with Michael Bunting and William Nylander on Tuesday morning. He was given a three-week recovery timeline, and Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks would make exactly three weeks since the injury.

“I felt good,” Matthews said. “I think everything is just kind of moving in the right direction, so it was nice to get back on a line and run through a full practice and get the timing back and everything like that. So we’ll just see how everything responds tomorrow morning and just see how I’m feeling, but for myself, just trying to get in the mindset in anticipation of playing and just go from there and see how I’m feeling tomorrow.”

Matthews, who has 25 goals and 28 assists in 47 games this season, told reporters last week that his recovery was going well after skating with his teammates for the first time in a red no-contact sweater.

Toronto also recalled goaltender Joseph Woll and forward Pontus Holmberg from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies on Tuesday.

Arber Xhekaj out indefinitely

Montreal Canadiens rookie defenseman Arber Xhekaj, who leads the NHL in penalty minutes, will be out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.

The team said Xhekaj sustained the injury against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.

He exited the game in the second period after a fight with Oilers defenseman Vincent Desharnais. Xhekaj appeared to injure his shoulder after landing a punch to Desharnais.

Xhekaj, 22, has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) and 101 penalty minutes in 51 games.

–Field Level Media