- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2006

It was immediately evident at yesterday’s Washington Capitals practice that one player in particular was missing — not a good sign with the trading deadline hours away. However, the chances of that player being dealt were too remote to compute.

Coach Glen Hanlon said Alex Ovechkin was being rested and might miss several more drills that are mandatory for others. The rookie left wing isn’t happy the situation — he rather would be with his friends on the ice — but there isn’t a lot he can do about it.

Ovechkin, 20, has played 59 NHL games this season, four exhibition games and eight games in the Turin Olympics. The most games he played previously in one season was 65, including the World Cup and world juniors, two years ago.

Capitals officials have felt for some time the budding star is tired. They believe some of the spark from the start of the season isn’t there at the moment. Time management on and off the ice is something he has to learn and control, according to Caps management.

Hence, “he’ll rest,” Hanlon said yesterday. “I’ll just talk to him and see what he needs for practice ice time. If we see anything slipping in his play, then maybe we can readdress [resting him]. At the end of the homestand, we’ll likely get him [practicing] again. I don’t see any reason right now to keep him practicing [daily]. His skills haven’t seemed to have gone down.”

Ovechkin played less than 17 minutes Monday night in a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders, about four minutes less than his average. He still managed to have a three-point night with a team-high seven shots on goal.

While Ovechkin wandered around the practice facility like a lost child yesterday, others concentrated on what the immediate future holds. The trading deadline is 3 p.m. tomorrow, and the Caps figure to be sellers.

“There hasn’t been any movement so far, but this could be the calm before the storm,” said left wing Jeff Friesen, 29, who has been rumored to be headed out, possibly to the team that traded him to the Caps during training camp, the New Jersey Devils. “Everyone wonders what’s happening around deadline time. Not too many guys are safe. You think about it. No use lying about that. But there’s nothing you can do as a player because you’re not the boss.”

Jeff Halpern, who with Ivan Majesky are the only potential unrestricted free agents, said he did not think he and the team would come up with a contract before the deadline, making him free July 1 to pursue his own course.

“I’ll be 30 this summer, and I hope [a championship run] is the direction this team is going,” he said. “They only signed [goalie Olie Kolzig] to a two-year deal, so you’re not signing him to develop young guys. If you have a goalie like that, you want to win right now. If that’s the case, Washington is the place I’d like to win. I don’t have to make a decision now. It’s up to management. Then it becomes my decision.”

But he said he would not be shocked to get a phone call informing him he had been moved.

“At this time of the year it’s up to teams to figure out what’s best for them,” he said. “If keeping me is best for them, I guess they keep me; if moving me is best, I imagine they move me. … I don’t think it would be a shock [to be traded]. Because I’ve played here a while and I’m the captain, it’s probably a little different. It’s nothing I asked for, but I don’t think it would be a shock. It wouldn’t be a surprise.”

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