“Back then, we don’t have a TV,” Ovechkin said. “We don’t have all the news, but what we heard of was the NHL. Of course, we knew Fedorov, Larionov, Lemieux, Gretzky, and you only watched on videotapes. You know, you buy in the store videotapes with highlights and the goals, like hits and fights and all of that kind of stuff. Obviously, like Lemieux, Iginla, those guys, you know, [Owen] Nolan. My favorite team was San Jose. I was cheering for them, especially when Nolan was there. … You grow up and you watch them and you want to be just like them.”
This, of course, begged the question: How did a Russian kid become a Sharks fan?
“Actually, it’s fun story,” Ovechkin said with a smile. “One of my teammates back then wear the hat with a shark, and we were like, ‘What is it?’ Because we don’t know the team. He said it’s the team over in San Jose, so I have a hat, I have a hoodie and like a jacket. Ulf Dahlen, I remember, my dad gave me a jersey of Ulf Dahlen. It was on my wall. That was kind of fun.”
>>> At the start of this road swing, the Capitals were charged with containing young Edmonton center Connor McDavid. On Tuesday night, Laine presents a new challenge.
“Obviously, a big body, so that makes it a little bit tougher,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Good hands and not afraid to try you one-on-one, which is always exciting. The guy can shoot it. We saw a couple of his goals off wrist shots, and it’s kind of like Ovi, you know? There’s some guys where it’s okay and you let them shoot from the outside and chances are the goalie has it, but it seems like he has a good enough shot to beat the goalie from outside with a wrister. You have to respect the shot while at the same time worrying about a guy trying to dangle you, so it’s a big challenge.”
Laine is known for his quick release, which is also a concern for Washington’s blue line.
“We’re trying to get our stick out there as fast as we can, but if they can let it go without much of a follow-through, it’s hard for us to really deflect the puck,” Alzner said. “It really is kind of the perfect storm of player and of skills to have. You just try your best, try to get in the way, try to block shots and try to out-muscle him. The only thing a guy like me might have over them is maybe a little bit of experience because he seems to have me in every other category.”
>>> Teams tend to bond on long early-season trips such as this one. At the very least, nicknames for the new faces get established. Zach Sanford is now “Sanny.” Brett Connolly is “Conno” or “Conns.” Lars Eller is “The Lar.”
“Not too many guys get a ‘the’ in front of their nickname, so it’s pretty special,” Alzner said.
Sanford said Alzner and other defensemen tried to get “Chevy” to stick as his nickname. Why?
“Because, like, San-FORD. So, he was like, ‘Nah, it should be ‘Chev’ or ‘Chevy,'” Sanford explained. “I don’t know about that one.”
>>> After back-to-back wins, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz will have the same lineup against the Jets, meaning Daniel Winnik will be a healthy scratch for a third straight game and defenseman Taylor Chorney has still yet to make his season debut. Trotz said Chorney and Winnik could play against Winnipeg at home on Thursday night.
“I just want to come back with the same lineup,” Trotz said. “I thought that Beagle line was quite impactful last game, so I don’t want to send the wrong message to them as well. They’re going to stay together. Daniel’s a real good player for us, so we’ll have to get him back in. I anticipate him getting back in next game. We’re going to stay the same on defense. I talked to Chor about that. He’s okay. I’ll look at it as after a long road trip, that first game ends the road trip rather than this game, so maybe we’ll get him in next game.”
Here’s the expected lineup:
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Justin Williams
Marcus Johansson-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky-Lars Eller-T.J. Oshie
Zach Sanford-Jay Beagle-Brett Connolly
Karl Alzner-Matt Niskanen
Dmitry Orlov-John Carlson
Brooks Orpik-Nate Schmidt
Braden Holtby (starter)