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“There aren’t many players you could do this with,” general manager George McPhee said. “We were comfortable doing it with Alex because he is a unique player. He has the physical tools and energy and intensity and body type to withstand the rigors of the NHL and the mental makeup to not change his game. One thing we know is that Alex is a very driven guy. His game won’t change. Some people around him may change, who knows. But he won’t.”

Well, maybe just a little. As he peeled off his equipment after practice, I said to Ovechkin, “You must feel a little different today than yesterday.”

“Of course,” he replied, smiling.