Alex Ovechkin has never missed more than two consecutive games in his five-year career, but that certainly looks like a possibility this week.
The Washington Capitals announced Monday that Ovechkin is week-to-week with an upper-body strain. He will travel with the team this week and continue to receive treatment, but the Caps don’t typically place the week-to-week status on a player unless the injury is serious.
Ovechkin spent less than an hour at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on the team’s off-day, the morning after leaving Washington’s 5-4 overtime loss to Columbus in the second period.
“We have to buckle down,” Boudreau said of taking the ice without the two-time Hart Trophy winner. “You look at a goal a game he scores, so we’ve got to play better defense. We can’t allow four goals and five goals a game. You have to win 3-1, 2-1 and if you get lucky sometimes make it a 4-2 game.
“I think we’ve got enough character players in there that they will understand what we have to do without Alex. As great as he is, if he makes the total difference in our team, then we’re in trouble.”
Ovechkin, who didn’t have his arm in a sling, declined to speak to reporters as he entered the practice facility. He arrived with his father, Mikhail, who waited outside in the parking lot until he eventually was escorted inside by trainer Greg Smith. Ovechkin left the building through a different door than the one he came in.
The Caps play at New Jersey on Wednesday before a home-and-home with Florida on Friday and Saturday. Ovechkin has missed only four games in his NHL career - one with a minor knee injury, one with a bruised heel and two to spend time at home in Russia with his ailing grandfather.
Ovechkin appeared to injure his left shoulder/arm during a post-whistle scrum near the Columbus bench. Jason Chimera bumped Ovechkin as he skated toward the Caps’ bench, in part because Ovechkin had leveled him with a hit in the first period.
He gave Chimera a shove in retaliation, then Blue Jackets tough guy Jared Boll stepped in, and all the players on the ice converged on the fracas.
“Everybody was in there, so I couldn’t really tell, but I just watched it about an hour ago,” Boudreau said. “There were seven Blue Jackets on the ice, and I couldn’t understand why nothing was done about it.”
Ovechkin took one shift after the incident and collided with Columbus’ Raffi Torres. He put his left arm out to brace for the fall and immediately went to the bench and then the locker room grimacing in pain.
With Ovechkin not available, Boudreau moved Brooks Laich onto the line with Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison and moved Quintin Laing into Laich’s old spot on the third line. Laich scored a pair of goals and Laing had his first of the season in the third period, but the Caps blew a pair of one-goal leads before falling in overtime.
Ovechkin sits atop the NHL in goals (14), points (23) and shots (86). On Monday, he was named the NHL’s No. 2 star for October.
Boudreau said multiple Caps players tried to fight Chimera after the scrum, but he declined their invitations. The Caps did not bring back pugilist Donald Brashear this offseason or replace him, so Boudreau had to answer that question Monday as well.
“If he’s not going accept that challenge, he’s not going to accept a Donald Brashear challenge,” Boudreau said. “I don’t think [an enforcer] would have stopped them from doing anything. I think the game plan was every time Alex touches the puck, that somebody hit him or run him. That’s what it looked like to me.”
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