- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin was fined $1,000 by the NHL yesterday for his hit from behind on Buffalo Sabres center Daniel Briere, who was knocked head-first into the dasher boards during the Caps’ 7-4 victory Saturday at Verizon Center.

The fine came after a phone hearing early yesterday morning with Colin Campbell, the league’s director of hockey operations. The fine is the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement. There will be no suspension.

“He tell me, ‘We watch video, [and] we understand you don’t try to give some dirty hit,’ ” Ovechkin said after practice. “I tell him same thing, I don’t want to give dirty hit. I just want to hit him, but he is turning, and I don’t have time to do something.”

The contact came less than five minutes into the second period with the Caps surprisingly in command against the best team in the Eastern Conference. Briere, Buffalo’s top playmaker, had just dumped the puck into the Caps’ zone and was headed for the bench and a line change. He appeared to be starting to turn right just as Ovechkin hit him.

“It was a hit that ended up catching Briere from the side [and] behind, and [Ovechkin] just couldn’t make a decision on stopping himself,” said Caps coach Glen Hanlon, noting the league looked at the player’s record before handing down judgment.

“He’s not a dirty player or somebody who’s a repeat offender,” Hanlon said. “We obviously look at it differently than Buffalo does — it’s their player who could have been injured. The quote from [Sabres coach Lindy Ruff] was right: If it was Ovechkin who was hit, we’d be up in arms ourselves. … I know that [Ovechkin] felt remorse, and I think that went a long way in the [NHL’s] decision.”

“I’m happy it’s done,” Ovechkin said. “I hope Briere is OK, but I don’t want to hurt him.”

Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby were on a league conference call yesterday afternoon when the subject was raised again.

“My contact was not an accident — I wanted to hit him,” Ovechkin said. “But if you see the replay, I didn’t hit him, you know, hard. I just saw his back, and I just hit him. I didn’t want to give him injury or do some injury to him. … We are both players. Doesn’t matter [if it was] Briere or some other player. … I know it was not good hit.”

Ovechkin was ejected, although it is unclear why. He received a major for boarding, but that penalty does not call for a game misconduct. The rule book does grant officials wide latitude in interpretation, but referees Mike Hasenfratz and Don Koharski refused to speak to reporters after the game to explain their decision.

Notes — Caps defenseman Jamie Heward, who sustained a long and deep gash from a skate across the left side of his face against Dallas on Thursday, underwent nearly five hours of surgery Saturday morning to repair damage to nerves, blood vessels and cartilage in his nose. Reconstructive surgeon Jules Feledy performed the procedure at Sibley Memorial Hospital.

Greg Smith, the Caps’ medical trainer, said it will take seven to 10 days for the wound to heal, but the team will not rush Heward back into action. Doctors want to make sure there is no chance of reopening the gash through contact. …

Two Caps prospects have been invited to the final tryout camp next week for the Canadian national junior team: Patrick McNeill, a defenseman with Saginaw in the Ontario Hockey League who was taken in the 2005 draft, and Mathieu Perreault, a 2006 selection and a center with Acadie Bathurst in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

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