Washington Capitals mix it up in training-camp scrimmages

By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 21, 2010; 12:06 AM

As the Washington Capitals begin to get reacquainted with familiar linemates or adjust to new ones during training camp, there's a good chance of seeing things that might not happen much in the regular season. Say, for example, captain Alex Ovechkin temporarily filling in at center during Monday's scrimmage at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

Down a center because Andrew Joudrey had a doctor's appointment, Team A rotated through playing the position, with even Ovechkin, a prolific scorer on the left wing, taking a few shifts in the middle.

"I was surprised when [assistant coach Dean Evason] told me, 'You're going to play in center,' " Ovechkin said. "I was like, 'Okay.' I won one faceoff, so I was happy, but I think I didn't play well in the defensive zone . . . so that was bad."

Team A (which also featured Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Knuble and Semyon Varlamov) defeated Team C (which included Mike Green, Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr), 6-3, in the session, with Ovechkin adding the final goal of the contest with a shot straight off the faceoff.

But on an earlier goal that broke a 3-3 stalemate, Ovechkin was in another unusual situation.

After a turnover at the blue line, defenseman Dylan Yeo scooped up the puck and rather than feed it to Ovechkin, who was waiting unobstructed back door, shot it himself. Yeo's shot beat goaltender Dany Sabourin for a 4-3 Team A lead.

"Dean [was] on the bench, I heard him say that was a good decision," Knuble said. "It takes [guts] to blow off Alex when he's sitting there ready to shoot the puck."

Despite the unpredictable and relatively casual nature of the scrimmages for the Duchesne Cup, which will be awarded to whichever of the three training-camp teams has a better record after playing the other two, it will help players establish competition and a quick pace before the Capitals' first preseason game Wednesday in Columbus.

When asked if he minded seeing so much scoring in the scrimmages, Coach Bruce Boudreau said he can't deny his team's nature.

"It's us," Boudreau said. "Obviously there were some defensive mistakes and you're going to have it happen. It's the second game in two days for the one team and the first time the other team has played together.

"We anticipate defensive mistakes but there was also some pretty good offensive players out there, so you expect them to score."

Glad to be back

During Matt Hendricks's first stint with the Capitals organization, he spent the 2006-07 season with the Hershey Bears learning how to be a more versatile player under the tutelage of then-coaches Boudreau and Bob Woods. When he was unable to sign with a team this summer as a free agent, Hendricks readily joined Washington's training camp on a professional tryout contract where he could work with both coaches again.

"That season was a big turning point in my career," said Hendricks, who played in 56 games with the Colorado Avalanche last season. "They taught me how to be the type of player I am now, and just be a student of the game and take every opportunity to learn from the players around you."

Hendricks, 29, is a natural center but he can also play on both the left and right wings; he played all three positions at times for the Avalanche in 2009-10.

"I view myself as a flexible player," said Hendricks, who is listed at 6-0, 215 pounds. "With my experience I can be a vocal guy in the room on the bench and maybe be that extra spark, that sandpaper that the team needs to get over that next hump."

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