Washington Capitals prepare for post-Olympics push

By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 1, 2010

The Washington Capitals welcomed back two Olympians to Sunday morning's practice, but the anticipated return of two other prominent teammates remained on hold.

Swedish center Nicklas Backstrom and winger Tomas Fleischmann of the Czech Republic were on the ice again in their first work with their NHL club since the Olympics began on Feb. 12.

"It's good to be back again, but a little disappointing about the tournament. I guess that's hockey," said Backstrom, whose Swedes failed to advance to the medal round after winning gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Alex Ovechkin and fellow Russian Alexander Semin, meantime, did not participate in the hour-long skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, where several hundred fans had gathered in hopes of watching the complete roster get ready for the final portion of the regular season.

Ovechkin stayed in Vancouver, B.C., for Sunday's Closing Ceremony, where he stood with young Russian children and waved to the crowd as the Olympic flag was lowered and presented to the hosts of the next Winter Games. Four days earlier, Russia lost to Canada, 7-3, in the quarterfinals. Semin was back in town Sunday but received another day's rest.

Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov, also a member of the Russian Olympic team, was sent down to minor league Hershey for reassignment.

"I told Alex [Ovechkin] just to be here tomorrow," Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I just gave [Semin] an extra day off, a mental day for him."

Ovechkin finished with four points for Russia, which fell short of the medal round despite having a roster filled with NHL stars, including Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins and the Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk.

One of the highlights of the Olympic hockey competition was Ovechkin's hit on Jaromir Jagr of the Czech Republic in a preliminary-round game. The crushing blow to the former Capitals player led to a goal and sparked Russia to a 4-2 victory.

"I still think it was a big factor in the game," said Fleischmann, who saw the hit to his Czech teammate up close. "That's why we lost, and it was the biggest hit I ever heard and seen in my life so far."

The Czech Republic rebounded from that defeat to beat Latvia, 3-2, in overtime in the next round before losing to Finland, 2-0, in the quarterfinals.

Sweden, meantime, had its bid to advance to the medal round fall short against Slovakia in the quarterfinals, 4-3. Backstrom finished with one goal and five assists in four games.

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