WINNIPEG — Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov sat in his locker room stall at Bell MTS Place on Thursday morning, about to answer a question about his newest teammate, Ilya Kovalchuk, when a voice chimed in from the side.

“Tell her it’s great. Tell her it’s great,” the 36-year-old Kovalchuk said, making a beeline to his stall, conveniently next to Kuznetsov’s, as he started taking off his pads.

With a goofy laugh and grin, Kuznetsov obliged and started his answer: “He, yes, that’s a great thing for us, not just on the ice but off the ice, I think, it means a lot for us, for sure. He is a great player.”

Kovalchuk then interjected, “Off ice, better for sure,” before Kuznetsov could continue: “I mean he is just joking all the time. . . . He can be a father for us.”

“Nah, nah, nah. I’m not that old. C’mon,” Kovalchuk insisted. “What, he looks older than me!”

The back and forth between two of the five Russians on the Capitals’ roster probably could have continued for hours, but with other media members starting to gravitate toward Kovalchuk’s stall, the winger let Kuznetsov continue on his own.

It’s like this almost every day: players joking with each other, with lighthearted digs flying across the room as tape balls are tossed. Kovalchuk fits right in. Not only does he bring an added veteran presence, full of big-game experience, but the trade deadline acquisition also adds a new dynamic to a room of easygoing, fun players.

Kovalchuk and Alex Ovechkin “are not 18, but they always on the same level as us,” Kuznetsov said. “It doesn’t matter how old they are. We can make a joke, and I feel like inside they are even younger than we are.”

With each addition General Manager Brian MacLellan has made during his tenure, getting “room guys” has been a priority. Both of this year’s trade deadline additions, Kovalchuk and defenseman Brenden Dillon, fit that description. Not only do they mesh well with the group, but being older, they have a “been there, done that” presence.

“I think that’s really important,” T.J. Oshie said. “The more experience you can have, the better. Especially when times get tough. When you have older guys — when things aren’t going your way — that aren’t freaking out and they are keeping their cool, it makes it very hard for the young guys not to follow that, so it’s important. It’s a great pickup for us. I like our veteran leadership going into the playoffs here.”

Most of the veteran leaders from the team’s Stanley Cup run in 2018 are still on the roster, bringing an added level of trust among the group, according to Oshie. The team “knows what level” they can get to, so there is a mutual trust in what players are doing to prepare for the postseason. There is a belief that if the players put the work in and play the right way, they “have a good as chance as anyone to get it done,” Oshie said.

“Guys that have been here awhile, it’s important, especially this time of year,” Nicklas Backstrom said.

Part of the preparedness for the postseason comes with understanding the tone and culture in the Capitals’ room. Some players can joke and laugh until the puck drops; Oshie and Tom Wilson have their own goofy pregame routine on the ice. But others throw on headphones and tune out the world until they have to hit the ice for warm-ups. Regardless, the goal is the same: Be ready for faceoff.

But finding the line between relaxed and undisciplined — and staying on the right side of it — is a concern, especially when the team’s performance is lagging. Oshie said while the team keeps it pretty light, “for a while there, the looseness was leaking out there on the ice.” He now feels the bad habits have been corralled, but with the Capitals set to play their 65th game of the regular season against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, they know now is the time to lock in.

“You know how end of the season guys get tired mentally, I think, and it’s always important to get our heads ready, and there is nothing better than doing it together and pushing each other,” Backstrom said.

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