In these playoffs, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom haven’t started a game together or taken regular shifts on the same line at even strength but neither of the Capitals’ franchise players is worried about picking up where the combo left off.
“I think we have chemistry, it’s not a secret,” Ovechkin said. “He can control the puck in the neutral zone and skate and find me in open spots. He’s a top center in the league, I’ve played with him and it’s nice.”
Said Backstrom: “No, we haven’t [played together] much at all, but we should know each other because we’ve played with each other for a long time. We’ve got to go out and do our job out there and make sure we get some chances and stuff, work hard and do all those little things right, too.”
While it certainly sounds as though Backstrom and Ovechkin will start the game together, what is uncertain is how long it will last. It could be a shift, a period, the entire game – only Coach Dale Hunter, who wasn’t divulging his plans, knows.
Although Ovechkin and Backstrom haven’t seen regular time together in the postseason, they have joined forces to come through with big goals in two of the past four contests. In Game 2 against the Rangers on Monday night, it was Backstrom who won the faceoff on the power play to set up Ovechkin for the game-winner.
In Game 6 against the Bruins, Backstrom had an equally valuable win on an offensive zone draw to set up Ovechkin for a tally that tied the contest at 3-3 late in regulation to force overtime.
Given that the Capitals have the last change at home and can dictate matchups tonight, don’t be surprised if both Ovechkin and Backstrom see considerably more ice time than they did in Game 2 when each skated a new postseason low, 13:36 and 16:18, respectively. Even if they don’t, Ovechkin said that how much he plays isn’t his focal point right now.
“Well, everybody wants to be on the ice but in different situations you have to be doing what you have to,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t think it’s time right now to talk about it. We’re not [concerned] about giving me 30-40 minutes of ice time, we’re here to make suggestions [on how] to make a win. If it takes giving me 13 minutes of ice time and we win the game, I’ll take it.”
Placing Ovechkin and Backstrom together again, with Marcus Johansson, makes for a speedy top line that one would hope could get going offensively. While the top six forwards have come through with timely goals, the Capitals want and need their best players to get on a roll. A top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom anchoring it, could be just the ticket.
“Me, Marcus are passers on that line,” Backstrom said. “We know he has a good shot and just gotta make sure he’s open and then we’ll try to find him. We’ll all three go hard to the net and try to get goals.”
— In other news, the Capitals held a secondary workout for scratches and black aces (check out the origin of the term here). Those who took part include: Tomas Vokoun, John Erskine, Dmitry Orlov, Jeff Halpern, Mattias Sjogren along with recently recalled black aces Dany Sabourin, Cody Eakin and Sean Collins.
While it’s unlikely any of the black aces would see time in the lineup barring an unexpected pileup of injuries, they are eligible to play if needed.
Defenseman Cameron Schilling, whom the Capitals signed from Miami (Ohio) in late March, is also attending the workouts but is not available to get in a game because his NHL entry-level contract doesn’t begin until the 2012-13 season.