About 30 minutes into Washington Capitals practice on Thursday morning, Alex Ovechkin clutched his chin and made his way off the ice with blood dripping from his face.
The star left wing was struck in the face by a rebound from his shot on a 2-on-1 drill and needed 22 stitches to close the gaping wound but avoided any serious harm from the errant puck.
“It’s hockey ))) hahaha,” Ovechkin wrote in a tweet as he shared a picture of the wide gash on his chin.
“He went to get stitches, part of the job,” Coach Adam Oates said, brushing off any concern about Ovechkin.
That Ovechkin wasn’t significantly injured by the puck is good news for the Capitals, given how he’s fueled their offense over the past two weeks. He’s on a six-game point streak (six goals, four assists).
Earlier this week Mike Ribeiro told local reporters he is in search of a long-term contract that will provide stability for himself and his family, preferably a four- or five-year deal.
So it wasn’t all that surprising when RDS’s Renaud Lavoie reported Wednesday night that the veteran center had turned down Washington’s first offer of a three-year, $14 million contract.
Ribeiro dismissed concerns about his contract situation again Thursday but reiterated that he would like to stay in Washington if the two sides can reach a deal.
“Obviously we have a great team here. I believe in the team that can make damage,” Ribeiro said. “It’s a short season and we had a bad start. If you look at the talent and the team we have here I’m pretty comfortable staying here.”
How the Capitals fare in three games over four days this weekend may impact how active General Manager George McPhee is prior to the April 3 trade deadline.
Ribeiro, 33, knows a decision about his future is looming, but at this stage of his career — having already been traded twice — he’s able to compartmentalize.
“I don’t think about it before the game or during the next few days or so,” Ribeiro said. “If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen.”
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth has made just two starts and three appearances in the Capitals’ past 22 games, and he acknowledged that it’s been a trying season.
“Just play one game in a month. It’s pretty hard. Never been through this but it’s another good experience for me, hopefully it’s going to make me better in the long run,” Neuvirth, who has a 2.99 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. “I wish I play more but it is what it is. ”
He’s played in only 10 games this season, which is the smallest workload he’s had in four seasons as a full-time NHL player. Part of the limited game action was because the 25-year-old Czech fell ill in February and then again in early March, but it’s also a reflection of Oates’s confidence in Braden Holtby.
Neuvirth is expected to start one of the Capitals’ back-to-back games this weekend either at Buffalo Saturday or Philadelphia Sunday. He is slated to become a restricted free agent this season but as the trade deadline approaches, Neuvirth said he isn’t worried about possibly being dealt even though Holtby has emerged as Washington’s No. 1 netminder.
“It’s my goal to be No. 1 and like you said, if not here maybe somewhere else,” Neuvirth said. “Now I am here and I am focusing on playing for Capitals right now.”
— Katie Carrera