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Washington Capitals Welcome Back Alex Ovechkin for Game Against Ottawa Senators

Alex Ovechkin is back with the Caps after visiting his ailing grandfather. (AP)
Alex Ovechkin is back with the Caps after visiting his ailing grandfather. (AP) (By Gene J. Puskar -- Associated Press)
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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Alex Ovechkin zipped a pass to Sergei Fedorov during a power-play drill yesterday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, and Fedorov drilled a one-timer into the net.

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Ovechkin threw his arms up in the air, screamed "Yeah!" and skated over to hug Fedorov.

He had been back on the ice with his teammates for only a few minutes, but the energy and enthusiasm he brings to the Washington Capitals -- emotion that was lacking Saturday night in Buffalo -- had returned to a team that's in desperate need of a spark heading into tonight's game in Ottawa.

Ovechkin flew back to Washington on Sunday evening after spending six days in Moscow with his ailing grandfather. The reigning most valuable player missed consecutive games for the first time in his three-plus seasons in the NHL, but he is expected to be in the lineup against the Senators.

"It helped me a lot," Ovechkin said of returning home. "I feel good and I feel bad. I feel good I saw my grandpa, but I feel bad I can't play and can't help my teammates win the game."

Ovechkin learned about the declining health of Nikolay Kabayev, 83, during a phone call from his father before the Dallas game on Oct. 25.

"My mind was already back in Moscow," he said of playing the Stars that night. "I called [General Manager George McPhee] and said, 'George, I need to go back to Russia and see my grandpa because I don't know when he is going to die.' Thanks to the Capitals, they said go there and be with your family. It shows how good people are here, how they love me, respect me and how they respect my family."

Ovechkin said he was unable to have a conversation with his grandfather, who was in intensive care. Asked what was ailing his grandfather, Ovechkin said, "He's 83; he's old."

"He didn't see me, but he probably feel me," Ovechkin added. "It was hard situation to see your grandpa lying [there] with the medical stuff [hooked up to him]. I'm happy I saw him when he's alive. It's very important for me."

The mood on the ice and in the dressing room was unmistakably more upbeat yesterday than it had been on Sunday, when Coach Bruce Boudreau punished his players with a hard practice after their 5-0 loss in Buffalo the previous night.

"Yesterday was yesterday, but to use an analogy, it's like your big brother is home," Boudreau said. "Yesterday there was a somberness to the place. But today there seems to be a little bit more life. There was more talking and more jump. Hopefully, it transcends into [tonight's] game."

That would be a good thing -- for everyone involved.


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