The Washington Times - September 12, 2011, 02:26PM

Alex Ovechkin said he’s in shape. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis agreed. Ovechkin’s agent, David Abrutyn said the same thing.

But Monday brought the strongest endorsement yet about the Caps star left wing’s conditioning, which has been a major subject of discussion over recent weeks and months.

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“I already know he’s in shape. I can tell,” strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish said. “We’ve worked several times on the ice and he’s without a doubt in the best shape I’ve ever seen him.”

Nemish is the man in charge of working the Caps into shape with stringent testing and sprints. With Ovechkin getting on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex earlier than usual, Nemish can see a major difference.

Ovechkin said he trained differently this offseason, perhaps indicating what Leonsis alluded to about a shift away from working into shape during the season as was the case last year.

“I wouldn’t say that they were big philosophical changes. There was probably more of a change in terms of timing of when to get involved,” Nemish said. “His commitment has been much more involved at earlier time. He’s got more under his belt in terms of when he started to train.”

It was much earlier this time. And Nemish likes what he has seen.

“All I can tell you is that, what he’s done this summer and the more time that he has put in, it certainly has paid off,” he said. “He’s ready to go at a much quicker rate than he’s had in the past.”