Alex Ovechkin could be following the Ilya Kovalchuk pattern even more so than just moving to right wing, as Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates said Wednesday his captain “absolutely” could see time on the penalty kill this season.
“He’s a smart hockey player. And a lot of times penalty killers are smart guys. You need execution, you need clearers, you need guys that know what a power play will do,” Oates said. “And he’s also a threatening player. When a team’s power play’s on the ice, they know he’s out there. If we can get in their heads a little bit, that’s a great situation to be in.”
Ovechkin played a grand total of 2 minutes, 1 second short-handed last season. During his NHL career, he has four short-handed goals in 178:38.
Kovalchuk rounded out his game last year with the New Jersey Devils by playing on the penalty kill. It allowed him to be more engaged in the game and helped his production.
Oates watched as Peter DeBoer did that last season, and it could translate into the same kind of success. If nothing else, it’ll get him more ice time.
“Let’s say we get two penalties in a row, I’ve got to get him on the ice, so he’s got to learn how to play that situation,” Oates said. “I also think it helps him. When you play penalty killing, you learn little things that maybe will help him on the power play. We’ve got a lead and the team pulls the goalie, he’s got to be out there. So he’s got to know how to play there. That’s an important time for our team.”
Unlike Dale Hunter, who preferred to play Jay Beagle, Brooks Laich and Co. late in games while protecting the lead, Oates will lean on Ovechkin all situations.
“I have to,” Oates said. “He’s got to do the job.”
Doing the job on the penalty kill routinely involves blocking shots. That’s the biggest worry about Ovechkin being out there against opposing power plays blasting away.
“Obviously a concern is you don’t want him blocking a shot and being hurt,” Oates said. “And you know what, that’s a coach’s nightmare, but that’s part of the deal.”