Alex Ovechkin made the 9½-hour flight to Moscow Tuesday after the death of an uncle and flew back to Washington Friday. But in spite of the emotional and physical strain of this week, the superstar left wing is expected to be in the Capitals’ lineup Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center.
“It’s hard time, but it’s done and I’m happy to be back,” Ovechkin said. “I feel pretty good.”
Asked about his physical condition, Ovechkin said he got a chance to sleep on the plane and feels “OK.”
“It is what it is. I feel pretty good. Ready to go,” he added.
This is a season with lofty expectations for the captain and his team, but opening night – especially given his week – might come with those things tempered for at least a game. But he’ll be skating on a very familiar top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble. Natural chemistry might help ease the transition back into game shape.
“I think Bruce knows we’ve spent a lot of time together, played a lot of games together in the last couple years. Hopefully it’s going to pick up quick,” Knuble said. “I think the bottom line is, he knows what he gets out of us and he knows what he’s got.”
Backstrom is optimistic that the chemistry will return, and Ovechkin “looked good” in his center’s eyes during the 10 or 15 minutes he was on the ice for the morning skate. The former Hart Trophy winner skated in Moscow and then again at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Friday night.
And while it’s not unusual for Ovechkin to miss the morning skate, he was there with his teammates Saturday.
“He looked fine, talking to the other coaches,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s taken time off as far as having to go back home and play before and had success. We’ll assume the same thing’s going to happen.”
It’s hard to tell after a morning skate what condition Ovechkin is in – teammates admitted that. But they also expect him to be geared up for the first game of the season.
“He’s a world-class player,” Knuble said. “I think he was over there with a heavy start and a real sad circumstance that drew him back there. But at the same time he’s looking at the big picture back here and ready to play tonight.”