Alex Ovechkin said after practice today he doesn’t expect to play tomorrow or Saturday against the Florida Panthers. He said his “upper-body strain” (NOTE: there is little doubt it is something in the front of his left pectoral-shoulder area at this point) is still sore, but it feels better today than it did yesterday.
Bruce Boudreau said Ovechkin probably did try to do too much at the start of the practice before shedding the stick, but just having him on the ice and going through all the skating (there was A LOT of skating for a 30-minute practice) should be a message to the other guys on the team about how bad he wants to play.
“I miss it — it is not my thing to sit in the press box and watch the game with you guys,” Ovechkin said. “It is a boring time [watching practice]. Especially when [assistant coaches Bob Woods and Dean Evason] take me and [Eric] Fehr after practice to skate — jesus, I don’t like that. I don’t mind playing 30 minutes, but I don’t like that.”
As for Eric Fehr, he said he feels much better and thinks he could play tomorrow, but it isn’t up to him. Bruce Boudreau didn’t commit to playing Fehr. He did say Fehr is on injured reserve, which could be a factor in the decision. The Caps can open up a roster spot for Fehr by putting Ovechkin on IR (retroactive to Sunday) if he isn’t going to play this weekend, but whether or not the Caps have enough salary cap space right now is a little fuzzy.
Putting Boyd Gordon on long-term injury reserve might solve the issue, but it might not. Gordon only makes $10,000 less than Fehr, but the Caps are pretty tight against the cap.
Boudreau said the 30-minute practice of skating, drills with a heavy skating bent and more skating was in response to last night’s third period. He also said it would have gone on longer if the team didn’t have to play two games in the next two days.
He hinted that other more drastic measures (benching, cutting ice time, etc.) could be coming in the future, but he doesn’t want it to get to that.
UPDATE: Here’s a little more from after practice today in Sunrise, Fla.:
* Bruce Boudreau didn’t just complain some more about the penalties (he said the first two of the night were suspect, but …)
“The other three penalties in the third period were just awful penalties and undisciplined. Whether it is in the paper or on TV or me telling them — how many times this has gone on is why I am so angry.
“What is it going to take to learn a lesson? You never want to go as drastic as you have to go, but if we can’t learn the lesson quicker than what we’re doing, then we’re going to have to do something.”
Boudreau didn’t want to discuss specifics in regards to actions or players, but did say “You guys can read between the lines,” which sounded a lot like coach speak for “Here’s looking at you, [rhymes with Yemen].”
Boudreau was also very upset with the work done by the PK after the team took the dumb penalties, particularly on Niclas Bergfors’ first goal to make it 2-1. It came 19 seconds after Alexander Semin went to the box.
“I gave them [crap] today too. We’ve got to be better,” he said. “It is the same penalty killers that’s been here going on the last two-and-a-half years. Dean [Evason] came right up to them before that second [goal] and said, ‘Listen, this is what they’re trying to do and this is what we have to do to defend it.’ They did exactly that, and we didn’t do what we’re supposed to do to defend.
“On the same token, there’s a lot to go around, because the goalie should have had that one. I don’t care if it’s a short side goal. Those are the ones you have to stop.”
As for moving forward without Alex Ovechkin (something that will get tackled in the paper tomorrow), I yield the floor to Brian Pothier:
“We have the best player on planet Earth on our team, and not only that he is such an exuberant personality and just full of life,” Pothier said. “He is the identity of the team, the identity of the league and the identity of hockey in general. I can’t stress that enough — he is larger than life. When you take him out, you can’t expect one guy — or even five guys — to fill that personality void because he’s one of a kind.
“What we can do is collectively play tighter and better as a team. Yeah, we might not jump over the glass when we score a goal or whatever Alex does, but we can each be effective in our own way. We each kind of bring something to the table.”