Just a few days before the start of the regular season is not an opportune time for Alex Ovechkin to miss half a week’s worth of practice. But given that his uncle died and that he was attending to family in Moscow, the Capitals’ official position was that life and death was more important than being on the ice.
“And we promote – it’s family first,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.. If something’s wrong, you’ve got to take care of your family. George [McPhee] and I have said, ‘As long as it takes. You come back when you’re ready.’ ”
The plan all along, according to a team spokesman and Boudreau, was that Ovechkin would be back in time for Saturday night’s regular-season opener against the Hurricanes. Washington’s coach confirmed Friday that was still the idea.
“I’m hoping. He’s supposed to land sometime this afternoon and I’ve told him to call me as soon as he lands and let me know how he feels and everything else,” he said. “We’ll have a much better read [Saturday] morning.”
If the team was 100 percent sure Ovechkin would play, it figures to reason that whichever player drew the job of replacing the star left wing on the top line in practice could be a healthy scratch. But with Ovechkin out, the Caps have been alternating Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson on Ovechkin’s spot.
Boudreau joked Thursday that he was just screwing with reporters, but one of two things will happen: Either Ovechkin will miss the game, forcing one of those guys or Brooks Laich to be the first-line left wing or Ovechkin will play and either Perreault or Johansson will likely be a healthy scratch.
Perreault might not be comfortable at left wing, but give him the choice and it’s not hard.
“I’ve never really played the wing in my life. I’m sure I could adapt and get into it. But if I had the choice, I would probably rather play center,” he said. “But if it takes me to be on the wing to get in the lineup, then I’ll play the wing. I just want to be on the ice.”
Johansson sounded more comfortable about the potential adjustment to left wing.
“Left wing is not that big a difference. It’s just in your own end, I think [there are] some differences,” he said. “But other than that, everywhere I play I’m going to play my game and we’ll see how it goes.”
Johansson has never tried flying back from Sweden (an eight-hour trip) and then playing a game the next day. He said the time difference would be a big issue.
“No, I haven’t,” the 20-year-old said. “And I hope I don’t have to.”
As far as managing minutes for Ovechkin if he does play, Boudreau cited adrenaline kicking in.
“It’s not hard to tell whether you’re exhausted or whether you have energy or if you don’t have energy,” Boudreau said. “I’m not really worried about the energy [Saturday].”