- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 2, 2009

For all of the star power in this Eastern Conference semifinal matchup, there are a lot of similarities between the coaches too.

Bruce Boudreau and Dan Bylsma had no NHL head coaching experience when they were promoted from the American Hockey League to the big league team.

Boudreau took over a reeling Caps team in November 2007 and promptly installed a new, aggressive philosophy that helped Washington to a Southeast Division title and earned him coach of the year honors.

Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien in February and helped the defending Eastern Conference champs return to the playoffs with a more attacking style and an 18-3-4 record. He isn’t a Jack Adams Award finalist, but he did accomplish enough to remove the interim tag from his title.

“We both started in the minor leagues, and we’re lucky enough to be here, but I don’t think we’re the story at all,” Boudreau said. “We’re guys that are going to work hard and let the story be the guys that are on the ice.”

Ovechkin practices

One day after being the only player who did not participate in his team’s practice, Alex Ovechkin was back on the ice Friday. He returned to the top line with Sergei Fedorov and Viktor Kozlov.

Ovechkin was absent Thursday morning, but both Boudreau and he said it was just to rest. When asked about a possible injury, Ovechkin said: “It is just about [the media]. You think about why I wasn’t practicing, what I am eating before the game. It is just you guys.”

Defenseman Jeff Schultz, who has missed the past six games with an undisclosed injury, made it through the full session Friday after leaving early the day before.

Bylsma’s hindsight

At some point between Games 3 and 5 of the Penguins’ Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against Philadelphia, Bylsma concluded the Flyers were preventing the Penguins from “getting to their game,” as he is fond of saying.

How he went about altering that for Game 6 left an impression with captain Sidney Crosby.

“I don’t think he did anything different, but just that fact that he stuck with what he preached,” Crosby said. “It’s easy in the playoffs to get caught up in everything. He could have changed things up a whole lot. He didn’t.”

Bylsma acknowledged this week he would have changed the way he handled certain situations against the Flyers.

“I certainly learned a lot in that first round,” he said.

Defending Ovechkin

The Penguins know what they’re up against in trying to defend Ovechkin, who led the NHL with 56 goals this season.

“He has a lot of moves, but he’s also very aggressive,” defenseman Hal Gill said, “He’s looking for a hit or looking for that jump, that extra step. That’s where he’s different from a lot of players. There are a lot of skill players, but there aren’t a lot of guys that make those skill moves at that level, at the speed he does.”

Gill said the Capitals’ other skilled forwards tend to follow Ovechkin’s lead, particularly as it pertains to trying to beat an opponent one-on-one.

“They’re going to try to make that extra move,” Gill said. “They don’t slow down to make it. They’re making it at speed. That’s what makes them difficult to play against.”

• Rob Rossi and Mike Prisuta of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review contributed to this report.

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