Rangers Boot Capitals' Alex Ovechkin From Practice
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
NEW YORK, April 20 -- The head coaches took care of the gamesmanship over the first two games of this playoff series, trading barbs in the media over the officiating and the Washington Capitals' techniques on faceoffs. That talk had died down by Monday morning, leaving a vacuum into which Capitals star Alex Ovechkin gladly stepped.
Soon after the New York Rangers took the ice at Madison Square Garden for their morning skate, Ovechkin -- wearing Capitals athletic gear and no helmet -- planted himself on the visiting bench and stared out at the opposing team. A Rangers employee soon told Nate Ewell, the Capitals director of media relations, that Ovechkin needed to leave the bench area. Ewell offered the Russian a seat in the stands, and he declined.
Within a few hours, the New York tabloids and national sports Web sites had picked up the story, with fans debating whether Ovechkin's stunt displayed confidence or desperation.
Rangers Coach John Tortorella said after the skate that he hadn't even seen Ovechkin, adding: "This is the first I've heard of it. Ask me a question about the game, not that [stuff]." But Ovechkin clearly relished the experience.
"I just [wanted] Tortorella [to get ticked] off -- and he was," he told a mob of media members. He was asked why he thought the Rangers asked him to leave; "Because they afraid of me," he said with a laugh.
Hockey etiquette, if nothing else, frowns upon such displays, and Washington Coach Bruce Boudreau said Ovechkin wasn't trying to cause a problem.
"They asked him to leave; he left," Boudreau said. "He just went out there and he wants to be around the rink. I don't think he had a pen and paper, writing down line combinations or anything."
Brashear Twitters, Plays
Boudreau has grown increasingly private about his lineup, refusing to divulge his goalie change two hours before Game 2 and twice declining to discuss his lines on Monday.
His players, though, were more forthcoming. Forward Donald Brashear missed the final 14 games of the regular season with a knee injury, and was a healthy scratch the first two games of this series, but he used his Twitter account to hint at his return for Game 3.
"I'm getting ready for my first playoff game against the Rangers," Brashear wrote Monday morning.
"I'm glad Donald makes those decisions," Boudreau quipped before the game, when he still wasn't talking about his lineup. "I don't even know what twittering is, so I don't think I'd be upset."
The coach and several players spent the past two days talking about the team's need for increased work rate and toughness, and Boudreau willingly admitted that Brashear can provide both.
"Energy, tenacity, forechecking," he said, ticking off Brashear's merits. "Plus Donald's great in the [locker] room, he's been with the guys for a long time, so it would just be something that's a team chemistry-type thing."
Brashear started the game on the checking line, skating alongside Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley. Michael Nylander replaced Brashear as a healthy scratch. And before the end of the first period, Brashear had caused a skirmish in front of the Rangers' net, losing his helmet in the process.