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Ovechkin serves as the engine of the Capitals’ on-ice success and as the dynamic face of a once-beleaguered franchise turned vibrant. But he also plays a more subtle role in the Caps’ success: Ovechkin, with a little help from fellow superstar Sergei Fedorov, is the conduit between the team’s Russian and non-Russian players.

“Each team seems to have a couple of Czech guys or Slovakian or, like our team, some Russian guys,” assistant coach Dean Evason said. “They tend to stick together — like they go to dinners together and stuff — and some coaches don’t like that because it can get clique-y. As far as our guys, they’re great. They interact with everyone really well. I don’t know what happens on other teams, but I think it is a big credit to Alexander Ovechkin.”

Ovechkin perhaps is the greatest hockey player in the world now, and he also is one of the sport’s great characters — his dynamic personality translates to any language.

Alexander Semin, another young and sublimely talented kid from the Motherland, is his closest friend on the team. But Ovechkin also is close to Backstrom and Green, and they enjoy hanging out — whether tailgating at a Redskins game, taking in a mixed martial arts match or joining the mosh pit at a Metallica concert.

“I had him out there mosh-pitting a little bit,” Green said. “It was nice. He enjoyed it.”

In years past, managers of NHL teams — most of them Canadian, all of them North American — hesitated to put many players from the former Soviet Union on their rosters.

The stereotype was simple: Russian players keep too much to themselves, show too little emotion and aren’t always willing to make necessary sacrifices for team goals.

Think Ivan Drago on skates.

The Detroit Red Wings wrecked the stereotype in the mid-1990s when, with the help of as many as five Russian players (including a young Fedorov), they became the pre-eminent NHL power.

“I was younger, but I was a very serious young man — not like Sasha and Sasha [Ovechkin and Semin],” Fedorov said. “They like to joke around a lot. I was not brought up that way — it was a different generation. There was mutual respect there, too, but it was just a little bit different. It was a little more serious then.”

As with the famed “Russian Five” in the Motor City, the Caps contingent is crucial to success. But these new-age comrades are blazing a different trail: They’re equally capable of connecting with each other without distancing themselves from the rest of the team.

Hockey’s rock star

Not long ago, Fedorov was what Ovechkin is today: hockey’s rock star. Endorsements, fancy cars, a certain famous Russian tennis player on his arm — Fedorov was one of the last graduates of the Soviet hockey system and one of the first from his country to reach celebrity status on this side of the pond.

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