Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin's not ready to return

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 6, 2009

SUNRISE, FLA. -- Alex Ovechkin was one of the first Washington Capitals on the ice for practice at BankAtlantic Center and was wearing his full complement of equipment and carrying his stick.

It took only a few minutes for the two-time MVP to realize that he's not quite ready to return to the lineup.

After tapping a teammate's pass into an empty net, Ovechkin, who was practicing for the first time since suffering a strain near his left shoulder Sunday, jokingly began to celebrate. But he couldn't raise his arms much above his chest, and moments later, he put his stick on the bench.

Ovechkin later conceded that he doesn't expect to play in this weekend's back-to-back games against the Florida Panthers, but wouldn't rule out returning next Wednesday when the Capitals host the New York Islanders. On Thursday, the two-time MVP was not assigned to a line and was unable to swing his left arm freely as he skated.

"It's still a little sore," he said. "I feel a little bit better, but there is still a little bit [of] pain. From last night to today, I feel much better.

"I don't want to disturb my injury," he added. "Without my stick, it's better."

It didn't matter that Ovechkin couldn't use his stick. Because instead of getting a day off to bask in South Florida sun, the Capitals pulled on their pads at the Panthers' rink and skated -- hard -- as punishment from Coach Bruce Boudreau for Wednesday's penalty-filled 3-2 loss in New Jersey. The intense, 30-minute session began with end-to-end sprints and ended with suicides.

"If we didn't play back to back, it would have been a lot longer," Boudreau said. "You can't cut your nose to spite your face."

Boudreau was still cranky about the Capitals' porous penalty-kill unit, which has slid to 20th, and the Devils' second goal, which he felt goaltender Semyon Varlamov "should have had."

But what had Boudreau really fuming was a familiar failure: certain players' inability to stay out of the penalty box with the game on the line. The Devils scored both the go-ahead and game-winning goals on the power play.

Alexander Semin was whistled for three penalties at Prudential Center, all in the offensive zone, and was in the box for one of New Jersey's third-period goals. Brendan Morrison, also called for an obstruction penalty in the Devils' zone, was in the box for the other.

Boudreau said he did not agree with the slashing call assessed to Semin in the second period or the boarding minor called on Mike Knuble early in the third. But the other three penalties taken in the final 8 minutes 59 seconds of the Capitals' third straight loss, well . . .

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