Joel Ward aiming for Game 1 return

According to multiple reports out of Washington, Capitals forward Joel Ward is aiming to return to the lineup by Game 1 on Thursday in D.C.

The 32-year-old winger, sidelined since suffering a knee injury April 7, sounded optimistic he'd be available when the Caps host the Rangers in the opening game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

“I’m hoping to," Ward said, according to the Washington Post. "Obviously we’ll see how these next couple days go,” Ward said. “I think my mind feels pretty good, it’s just I want to get in with the guys and kind of muck it up a little bit. I think the next couple days will be a pretty good test."

Ward would be one of the main beneficiaries of the surprisingly late start to the series and the Caps are hopeful that practice time will pay off.

Ward tallied the overtime series-clinching goal in Game 7 to knock off the Boston Bruins in the first round last April. He had eight goals and 20 points for the Caps before sustaining the injury, which sidelined him for the final nine games of the season.