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Caps could use Ovechkin on penalty kill this season

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Loose Pucks,Sports,Brian McNally

Can I interest you in watching Alex Ovechkin kill penalties this season? That concept might terrify some fans. But get used to it. Capitals coach Adam Oates has already spoken with his star winger about that possibility and answered “absolutely” when asked if he would ever employ Ovechkin on that unit.

“[Ovechkin is] a smart hockey player. And a lot of times penalty killers are smart guys,” Oates said. “You need execution, you need clearers, you need guys that know what a power play will do. And he’s also a threatening player. When a team’s power play’s on the ice, they know he’s out there. If we can get in their heads a little bit, that’s a great situation to be in.”

Of course, Ovechkin hasn’t done that in a while. In 2008-09 he skated a career-high 73 minutes, 25 seconds on the PK. As a rookie in 2005-06 he was on that unit for 65:52. But last season he was on the ice short-handed a grand total of 2:01. Ovechkin does have four short-handed goals in his career.

Oates was an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils when that team tried a similar tactic with star winger – and Ovechkin’s good friend – Ilya Kovalchuk last season. Kovalchuk, also a prolific goal scorer, was given more responsibility by the Devils and played 88:48 on the penalty kill. Oates wasn’t delving into specifics so no word if Ovechkin will be used on a regular penalty-kill shift. But he is willing to roll the dice on the increased injury risk to keep his star on the ice as much as possible.

“Yeah because let’s say we get two penalties in a row, I’ve got to get him on the ice, so he’s got to learn how to play that situation,” Oates said. “I also think it helps him. When you play penalty killing, you learn little things that maybe will help him on the power play. We’ve got a lead and the team pulls the goalie, he’s got to be out there. So he’s got to know how to play there. That’s an important time for our team.”

Follow me on Twitter @bmcnally14

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