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“My take on him before probably was that he was a goofy big kid. Now there’s a little more element of seriousness to him,” Knuble said. “Part of it’s probably getting older and part of it’s probably the weight of wearing the ‘C’ every night and realizing that.”

The transition from best player and one of the faces of the league to Caps locker room leader, however, is far from complete. Knuble’s first captain in the NHL was Steve Yzerman, a player whose strength was working the room and making teammates feel “involved” thanks to personal connections.

Imparting that kind of knowledge about when Ovechkin needs to talk is part of Knuble’s role off the ice.

“You just got to be able to relate to each guy in one way. And go bounce from guy to guy and have something to talk to them about,” Knuble said. “You don’t have to be best friends with everybody, but it helps to really make contact with guys.

“It’s not something that you have to force. Just be chatty and talk to guys about stuff, have something to relate to with each guy.”

Former captains fill the Caps’ roster, from Jeff Halpern in the NHL to Alzner and Marcus Johansson, who did so at the world junior championships. Then, of course, there’s coach Dale Hunter, who wore the “C” in Washington.

“We’re two different players, so you can’t really compare us,” Hunter said. “Alex, he comes out here and he plays hard, takes the body and scores goals. You can’t ask for any more than that.”

Although there’s not really a language barrier, Alzner and Knuble pointed out that it is difficult sometimes for Ovechkin to verbalize everything he wants to get across.

But Hunter doesn’t necessarily think a captain necessarily has to be vocal.

“It’s not always talk, talk, talk,” he said. “It’s what you say. I think that’s the most important thing.”

And, for Ovechkin, it’s what he says with his game. It’s no coincidence that the Caps’ four-game winning streak has included a run of multipoint games from him.

That’s how everyone wants Ovechkin the captain to be measured.

“We don’t need him to be the lead guy in the room. We want him to be the lead guy on the ice,” Knuble said. “I don’t think that will ever change in his career.”

NOTE: Nicklas Backstrom (head) skated Thursday and reported feeling “pretty good.” He made the trip to California with the Caps, though there was no official decision yet as to whether he’d play Saturday night at San Jose. Backstrom underwent concussion testing Wednesday after taking an elbow to the head from Calgary forward Rene Bourque, who was suspended five games by the NHL.