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NHL hits back: Ovechkin is suspended for two games

Boudreau may talk with star about his style of play

Ovechkin will sit out vs. the Panthers and Flyers and is eligible to return Monday. The suspension is his first in the NHL.
Ovechkin will sit out vs. the Panthers and Flyers and is eligible to return Monday. The suspension is his first in the NHL. (Bruce Bennett/getty Images)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin was suspended for two games without pay Tuesday for a controversial hit that has the two-time MVP nursing a right knee injury and his coach contemplating talking to his star about his occasional "reckless" play.

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The suspension, the first of Ovechkin's five-year NHL career, was the result of a knee-on-knee hit he laid on Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason during Monday's 3-2 victory in Raleigh, N.C. Ovechkin will sit out Thursday's game against Florida and Saturday's contest in Philadelphia and forfeit $98,844.16 of his $9 million annual salary.

Coach Bruce Boudreau said the hit might force him to talk with Ovechkin about toning down an aggressive style of play that, so far this season, has resulted in a fine and two ejections.

"He's pretty reckless," Boudreau said. "It's hard telling a guy that scores 60 goals a year to change the way he plays. At the same time, I don't want to see him getting hurt. Maybe he has to pick his spots a little better."

Ovechkin, who skated lightly for about five minutes in a red track suit Tuesday morning, will be eligible to return next Monday in Tampa.

"I regret that this has happened," Ovechkin said in a statement released by the team. "I'm glad that Tim wasn't injured because I never ever want to see anyone get hurt. I am disappointed to miss these games and I can't wait to get back on the ice next week to help my team."

The 24-year-old Russian is known as a big hitter; he leads the Capitals with 58 through 21 games this season. But, in the eyes of the NHL, he crossed the line Monday against the Hurricanes.

Ovechkin was assessed a five-minute major penalty and was ejected in the first period for kneeing Gleason. Though both players went down hard, Gleason emerged without an injury. Ovechkin, though, had to be helped to the visitors' dressing room.

"I don't mean to go knee-to-knee on him," Ovechkin said before the suspension was announced. "I just go straight to take a body hit, but he turned so quick."

The fact that Ovechkin was permitted to lace up skates at all Tuesday backs up the winger's assertion that the injury is not serious, which is encouraging news for the injury-riddled Capitals.

"It's a lot better than I thought it would be," Boudreau said.

Ovechkin, who was sidelined six games in November with a shoulder strain that he suffered during a scrum, added: "Well, it's not a bad injury. I thought it was going to be worse. But thanks God I can walk, I can skate. Of course, it's a little bit sore. But it's not that serious."


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