By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 3, 2009
After practicing on a sore right knee Wednesday, Alex Ovechkin remained resolute that the first suspension of his career would not make him reconsider his aggressive style of play.
"I'm not going to change anything," the Washington Capitals' star winger said, addressing the media for the first time since the NHL suspended him for two games for a controversial hit on Carolina's Tim Gleason Monday night.
Asked about his reaction to the suspension, Ovechkin said, "maybe it gets me more angry."
Before the suspension was announced Tuesday afternoon, Coach Bruce Boudreau said he planned to talk to Ovechkin about toning down his aggressive style of play -- if for no other reason than to avoid injuries such as the one he suffered when he went knee-to-knee with Gleason. But 24 hours after calling Ovechkin "reckless," Boudreau said he did not want Ovechkin to alter his game.
"I don't want him to change the way he plays at all," Boudreau said. "When I said 'reckless,' I was using the term in fear of him getting hurt, not him hurting anyone else. He's got to be him. I don't want him to change. That's what makes him three things: one of the best players in the world, one of the best personalities in sports and the reason you pay to watch guys like Alex."
Boudreau's sentiments were not shared by everyone in the Capitals' dressing room, though. When asked whether he thought the suspension was fair, captain Chris Clark said he did not disagree with the NHL's decision.
"Yeah," he said. "Even being his teammate, I obviously would like him not to be suspended or miss any time, but I think the circumstances and the timing of it had a lot to do with it. If this had happened at the end of the year, maybe not. Or in the playoffs, maybe not. But I think after successive game misconducts . . . "
Asked if he was worried about the way other players might view him after the hit, Ovechkin said, "No. I don't care."
Wearing only a neoprene sleeve on his right knee, Ovechkin rejoined his teammates for practice Wednesday and appeared unencumbered by the injury, but not quite at full tilt during drills. He skated with Mike Knuble and Jay Beagle, all of them in orange jerseys, which usually are designated for hurt players and healthy scratches.
"He skated fine out there," Boudreau said. "He looked like he was skating around out there like he was just angry."
Boudreau was pleased to see Ovechkin's progress, but he said he was less than thrilled with the league's decision to ban his team's leading scorer through Saturday's game in Philadelphia.
"He made a play that I thought, you could compare it to an awful lot of plays in the NHL so far this year," Boudreau said. "As [General Manager George McPhee] told me, 'It was a good hockey play that went wrong.' That's, to me, where it should have stayed. But I'm not the boss."
NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell "made the decision he thought was right," he added.
Although Ovechkin could have played Thursday against Florida, according to Boudreau, taking two games off should ensure that his knee will have healed when he's eligible to return to the lineup Monday at Tampa Bay.
"It's okay," Ovechkin said of his knee. "Not put 100 percent weight."
As for whether he would be ready Monday, he only would say, "We'll see."
Asked if he planned to issue nothing but two-word answers, Ovechkin almost smiled.
"Maybe," he cracked.
Capitals notes: Alexander Semin (sore wrist) practiced for the third consecutive day and could return from a seven-game absence Thursday. . . . Defenseman Tom Poti also practiced, but he is questionable. . . .
With Ovechkin set to serve the first game of his suspension, the first line was Brooks Laich-Nicklas Backstrom- Semin. . . .
Capitals prospects Stefan Della Rovere and Cody Eakin were invited to attend Canada's national junior team selection camp, while John Carlson was named to the preliminary roster for the U.S. junior team.