Ward back for Capitals in Game 1

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Washington will have Joel Ward back in the lineup for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the Rangers, according to Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times.

Ward, 32, has been out with a knee injury after blocking a Sami Salo shot on Apr. 7.

He missed Washington’s final nine games of the regular season, cutting short a productive second campaign in the nation’s capital that saw him score more points (20) in 39 games than he scored all of last season (18 in 73 games).

Getting Ward back for the playoffs is key for the Caps, as he’s been something of a clutch postseason performer during his six-year career.

He scored four points in six games during his playoff debut — Nashville’s loss to Chicago in the opening round of 2010 — then broke out by scoring seven goals in 12 games during the 2011 postseason.

Last year, Ward famously scored the Game 7 OT winner as the Caps upset the Bruins in the opening round.

It’s expected he’ll skate on the Caps’ fourth line tonight with Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle.