The news regarding Alex Ovechkin’s injured right knee was good Tuesday. The same can’t be said for his wallet.
Ovechkin was suspended for two games by the NHL for his knee-to-knee collision Monday night with Carolina’s Tim Gleason. He will miss games Thursday against Florida and Saturday at Philadelphia; he’s eligible to play again Monday at Tampa Bay.
The suspension without pay will cost Ovechkin nearly $99,000 in salary.
“I regret that this has happened,[“] Ovechkin said in a statement released by the team. “I’m glad that Tim wasn’t injured because I never, ever want to see anyone get hurt. I am disappointed to miss these games, and I can’t wait to get back on the ice next week to help my team.[“]
The club officially listed Ovechkin as day-to-day with a sore knee. Neither Ovechkin nor coach Bruce Boudreau would divulge further information or speculate about when the two-time league MVP might return. However, both said the knee was better than expected.
Ovechkin was checked out by the team’s medical staff Tuesday morning. He then took a light, four-minute skate in a track suit and gloves before the Caps practiced.
“[It is] not bad injury. I thought it was going to be worse,” Ovechkin said. “Thank God I can walk. I can skate. It’s a little sore.”
Ovechkin always has been known as one of the most physical players in the league, but the number of incidents in which he has been involved has been increasing.
“He’s pretty reckless, [but] it is hard telling a guy who scores 60 goals a year to change the way he plays,” Boudreau said. “At the same time, you don’t want to see him getting hurt. Maybe he needs to pick his spots a little better. I just don’t want him to put himself in harm’s way. I don’t think anything being said will change the way he plays.”
Ovechkin was unable to put any weight on the leg as trainer Greg Smith and Nicklas Backstrom helped him off the ice. Ovechkin’s five-minute major for kneeing and game misconduct was the second time in three games he has been ejected and the third time in five weeks he has been involved in a controversial play.
Ovechkin was tossed last Wednesday for his hit on Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta, and he received a $2,500 fine for slew-footing Atlanta’s Rich Peverley on Oct. 22.
“How can you tell me you just have to stop playing how you play?” Ovechkin said. “I play risky. I don’t try dirty hits, make some people get hurt. But sometimes people just turn back or turn right away, so I don’t have time to realize and stop. What can you do? You can’t do nothing.”
Durability had been one of Ovechkin’s strengths in his first four seasons in the league. He missed only four games before this season - and only two because of injury. He missed six games earlier this month because of an upper-body strain near his left shoulder.
Boudreau said he might have to talk to Ovechkin about his proclivity to put his body in danger.
“I don’t think there is a malicious bone of him trying to hurt anybody,” Boudreau said. “He just plays hard, and he plays to win every shift. It is a really fine line between taking that away from him, and I don’t see how you can take it away without talking to him.”
The Caps won four of the six games they played without Ovechkin this season. They’ve also kept themselves near the top of the Eastern Conference despite a myriad of injuries. Two players in particular have upped their production: Eric Fehr (five goals in the past six games) and Tomas Fleischmann (five goals in the six games Ovechkin missed).
“We’ve faced injuries before, so it is nothing new to us,” forward Brooks Laich said. “We’ve found ways to win, and that’s been the identity of this team.”
Note - Alexander Semin (wrist), Tom Poti (chest) and Mike Knuble (broken finger) returned to practice Tuesday, but Shaone Morrisonn (concussion) did not skate a day after participating in pregame warmups.
Boudreau said he expects Poti back by Monday but didn’t rule out the defenseman for Thursday against Florida.
When told Semin doesn’t expect to play that day, Boudreau responded, “That’s news to me. I thought he looked pretty good out there today.”
Knuble is not eligible to come off long-term injured reserve until Tuesday, but he still hopes to play the next day at Buffalo. Boudreau said Morrisonn is “taking a couple of days off and then [will] restart” as he tries to recover from post-concussion symptoms.