Alex Ovechkin was back at right wing again on Sunday. Two days after what Oates said was his best game of the season, Ovechkin was again strong. He had five shots on goal and eight attempts. He was physical, especially early in the game. He did take a penalty. Oates called his performance “way better” than even Friday’s effort given the amount of touches and how involved he was in every shift. And Oates was pretty complementary of Ovechkin after that game, too. He wasn’t the only one who noticed.
“He’s an opportunistic player, you know?” said teammate Wojtek Wolski, who played left wing with Ovechkin and center Mike Riberio on the top line. “He’s got so much speed and so much power that he’s gonna be jumping into those openings and he may see things that we don’t see sometimes. He’s that type of special player. So we’ve got to keep our heads up.”
The Ovechkin, Wolski and Ribeiro survived a line combination shakeup at practice on Monday at Kettler Iceplex. Jason Chimera was moved to the second line with Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer. Marcus Johansson was on the third line with Joey Crabb and Joel Ward. Matt Hendricks was the fourth line left wing with Jay Beagle the center and Eric Fehr and Mathieu Perreault also skating with white jerseys. That top line, at least, feels like success is close. But playing next to two guys who weren’t even with the organization last year requires communication.
“I’m continually asking Ovi to yell because sometimes I might not see a play, but if he gives me a heads up it makes it a lot easier for me and he’s been doing that,” Wolski said. “We’ve gotten a ton of chances, I think. I don’t even know how many shots Ovi had tonight – maybe 10? I think it’s going in the right direction, but we’ve got to win, we’ve got to score goals.”
Ovechkin agrees and feels that pressure. He figured that playing in the KHL with his hometown club, Dynamo Moscow, would give him an edge entering the lockout shortened season. That hasn’t happened and he’s left searching for answers.
“It’s kind of surprise me because out there, you can see, lots of guys have lots of points and goals,” Ovechkin said before Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, where he had one assist to push his point total to four. “Right now, I’m standing here I have only three points and it kind of embarrass me, but it is what it is.”
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