Capitals’ Anthony Mantha makes an impact after return from surgery

“The last little sprint to here from all-star break [the first week in February] was pretty intense for me workout-wise,” Mantha said, “And it was just new steps every other week or every week almost. From the mental side of it, it was awesome.”

Washington’s next game is Tuesday against the New York Islanders.

Mantha said his return was certainly accelerated “maybe a game or two” after key injuries to Washington’s forward corps, but he said he wasn’t rushed back. He said he would have slowed down if he had felt sore or off after any practice leading up to his return, but no setbacks occurred.

“I was ready to go,” Mantha said. “The main holding thing was they were asking me about my confidence level about getting hit and someone off and all of that. For me, I was ready.”

Mantha’s return, along with his $5.7 million salary cap hit, was achievable after Washington made a couple injury-related roster moves. Carl Hagelin was placed on a long-term injured reserve after he was hit in the eye with a stick during practice. He needed surgery and is out indefinitely.

Rookie Joe Snively also underwent wrist surgery and will be out a few weeks.

That all opened the door for Mantha. His original rehab timeline was four to six months. He came back around the four-month mark.

Mantha said he laid low in the days after his surgery and focused on rest. The first couple weeks were about letting the swelling go down and moving as little as possible.

At the four-week mark, Mantha ramped up his mobility. Progress came in the form of moving his arm centimeters at a time. After centimeters turned into inches, Mantha started lifting small weights to build back the muscle.

About three months into Mantha’s rehab, he felt like he was ahead of schedule so he started to target a quicker return.

He added heavier workouts and cardio to his exercises and suddenly, time started to fly by. He passed goal after goal and could feel his shoulder get stronger. Once trainers were happy about his off-ice progress, they cleared him to skate about four weeks ago.

On the ice with Capitals strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish, he focused on getting his timing back and feeling comfortable again.

“The first time on the ice was fun, even if it was a bag skate you were still happy to be back on,” Mantha said. “First practice with the team, even with a blue [noncontact jersey] color, you were happy.”

Mantha only practiced fully with the team four times before playing on March 3 against Carolina.

“I was just happy to have a normal jersey on and be out there [early in the week] and kind of battle a little bit and then the two guys being out speeded up things,” Mantha said.

In a handful of games since that return, he presence on the ice has been electric, creating space for his teammates and being a reliable asset on the second line.

There is still one lingering reminder of the procedure, though. Doctors needed to make a three-inch incision to perform the surgery, which Mantha said left him with “a nice scar.”

“My first thinking was to put a tattoo over it,” he said. “We will see how that goes. If there is something that really attracts my eye that I will maybe put over my chest, that would be good, if not, it’s whatever.”

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