Alex Ovechkin to make preseason debut for the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night
Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 12:37 AM
Alex Ovechkin has never been one to prefer extended periods of practice time over game action.
The marquee left wing's wait will end Tuesday night, when he is expected to make his preseason debut at home against the Boston Bruins. The game will mark Ovechkin's return to Verizon Center for the first time since the Montreal Canadiens eliminated the Capitals from the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring.
"It's going to be fun; being in a game is always good," said Ovechkin, who added that he would likely skate on a line with Tomas Fleischmann and Mike Knuble. "Game is always better than practice. It's nice to get back feeling the puck, feeling the ice and get in game momentum again. I'm ready for that."
Along with Ovechkin, several other veteran players, including Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon, D.J. King and David Steckel, could make their preseason debuts in the first of back-to-back contests against the Bruins. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov is expected to start and play the entire contest. It's also possible that Tuesday's lineup will include more players who will remain in Washington for the regular season than the two previous preseason games in Columbus and Nashville.
With potentially two spots on the Capitals' roster up for grabs, the coaching staff has had numerous players and countless line combinations to consider during training camp and the preseason, leaving others anxious for game time. Through two exhibition games, Coach Bruce Boudreau has used eight different forward lines.
"Things aren't as cut and dry as they have been in years past, and we haven't really decided much of anything," Boudreau said. "It makes for great competition and great practices, too, because the tempo is really high. I haven't talked to [some of the veterans who have yet to play] or discussed things with them, but they've all been around and know nothing's given to them. I suspect they will come through."
After a round of cuts on Monday that saw Francois Bouchard, Sean Collins, Kyle Greentree, Grant McNeill, Zach Miskovic and Brian Willsie assigned to the minor league Hershey Bears, pressure is on those remaining at the Capitals' Arlington practice facility to make the most of any game shifts they do receive. (Greentree and Willsie have to clear waivers before they reach Hershey.)
"Every time you're out on the ice you've got to make it count," forward Jay Beagle said. "It is tough to try to make an impression because there are so many guys but you can't worry about that. If they put you in games they obviously like what they see so you want to play every game and that's not the case with how many guys are here."
Hendricks signs contract
Forward Matt Hendricks agreed to a one-year, two-way contract, the Capitals announced. It is both vindication and reassurance for Hendricks, who arrived in training camp on a professional tryout after being caught in a difficult free agent market this summer.
"I'm very excited," Hendricks said. "They've seen enough out of me to want me back in the organization; not necessarily have they seen enough for me to make the Washington Capitals, but it's a steppingstone."
After proving himself in the ECHL and AHL, Hendricks earned his first full season in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche in 2009-10, registering 16 points in 56 regular season games.
Through two preseason games the Capitals have seen two sides of Hendricks, who has experience playing all three forward positions and is a natural center. Against Columbus he scored a hat trick and against Nashville he showed some of the agitator capabilities that make him an asset as a grinder.
"No matter what my role is in a game, no matter how much ice time I get, at the end of it I want to be able to say I changed the game," Hendricks said. "So sometimes it might be scoring a goal, but for the most part it's the way I play, with the grit and the energy that I bring for the club."
HBO is in the house
An HBO film crew invaded Kettler Capitals Iceplex to work on a few promotional shots before they begin formal shooting for the four-episode "24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic" on Dec. 5. Team officials said Monday's crew was much larger than the one that will be filming regularly, but the sheer number of cameras, crew members and producers did not go unnoticed by players.
"It's going to be interesting," forward Brooks Laich said. "They stepped on the ice today and a couple guys weren't too happy with that. They kind of interrupted a little meeting we had before the practice. Those boys better watch their step. A lot of our guys have short fuses, especially if they start getting in the way of us winning hockey games and business as usual around here."