Count Oilers first-year Coach Dallas Eakins among those in the pro-Alex Ovechkin camp. From the star winger’s physical play to the emotion he displays on the ice, Eakins is a fan of it all.
“I love it. I love the way Ovechkin plays. He’s well rounded,” Eakins said. “It’s not like he’s one of the skilled players out there that maybe is smaller stature and you have to worry about their speed and skill. With Ovechkin you’ve got to worry that he might run you over, too. I feel bad for the defensemen in the league that have to go out and challenge this guy. He can beat you with strength, he can beat you with speed, and he’s got a little bit of fire in his game, which is for me always great to see in a player that he’s got that fire and just a little bit of nastiness.”
From Thursday’s paper: Ovechkin rolling, leads league in goals
When these two teams met on Oct. 14 at Verizon Center, the Oilers got a first-hand look at the dual nature of Ovechkin. He recorded a goal and an assist in Washington’s 4-2 win and also amped up the physicality when he hit and was subsequently confronted by Mike Brown, who has since been traded to San Jose. The play that resulted in a pile up of every player on the ice at the time.
Occasionally throughout his career, Ovechkin has drawn criticism for his outward displays of emotion, whether after a goal or during the course of the game. Eakins doesn’t mind that, either. In fact, he’d like to see some of Edmonton’s younger stars eventually have some of that same confidence and presence on the ice.
“I want to get to a place with our group that they do wear it on their sleeve a little bit, and I don’t mean being cocky hockey players. I mean having a little bit of swagger to your game and having confidence on the ice,” Eakins said. “I think Ovechkin brings that. He’s highly confident, he brings a little bit of swagger and very rarely has he gone overboard with it. For me, to be out there being a bunch of robots with no expression on your face it’s not very much fun. It is an emotional game and I think it’s okay to show emotion.”
Here are the projected lineups for both teams.
Nail Yakupov-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Jordan Eberle
David Perron-Mark Arcobello-Ales Hemsky
Ryan Jones -Boyd Gordon-Tyler Pitlick
Luke Gazdic-Will Acton-Ben Eager
Anton Belov-Justin Schultz
Ladislav Smid-Jeff Petry
Andrew Ference-Nick Schultz
Devan Dubnyk will start.