- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2009

Last season Alex Ovechkin got off to a slow start - by his standards - and still managed to lead the NHL with 56 goals.

What if he hadn’t netted only two goals in his team’s first 16 games? Well, it appears he could provide that answer this season. Ovechkin has five goals and nine points in his first three games for the Washington Capitals, and the hot start could lead to some immortal accomplishments.

“Last year, it was my personal situation,” said Ovechkin, who missed two games to spend time with his ailing grandfather in Russia. “My mind was not about hockey; my mind was about my grandpa in Moscow. Right now everybody is healthy, and I just concentrate on the game and this team.”

Only five players in NHL history have scored 50 goals in their team’s first 50 contests, which originally became a symbolic feat because the season was 50 games when Maurice “Rocket” Richard was the first to do it 65 years ago.

Eight players have scored at least 70 goals in a season. Only five have collected 150 points in a season. Some of these feats might seem implausible at first blush, but Ovechkin - with the help of sidekicks Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Mike Green - might just prove to be the guy who can produce them.

“I think it is way too early to talk about that,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It is not a realistic goal. It is too much pressure to put on someone who just goes out there and plays. The goals come. You want to talk about something to shoot for is plus-50.”

For what it’s worth, Ovechkin leads the league in that category (plus-6) as well.

Sloan at forward?

Boyd Kane was assigned to Hershey, so defenseman Tyler Sloan was in his place as the team’s fourth-line left wing at practice Wednesday. Sloan has yet to play in a game this season because the Caps are carrying eight defensemen, so it is a creative way to get him playing time and save the team some salary cap space.

Sloan has played some forward before, both for Boudreau in Hershey and with Syracuse in the American Hockey League.

“It’s been a while since I played it,” Sloan said. “I was just trying to get an idea of what was going on with the systems, taking pucks off the boards. It is probably not where I want to be, but I am playing.”

Boudreau said ailing forward Eric Fehr is not likely to be ready for at least the next two games. He also conceded that Ovechkin could double-shift and allow Sloan some time as a defenseman and forward.

Knuble suffers cut

Mike Knuble needed about 10 stitches after the game Tuesday night because of a cut on his ankle from blocking a shot. Knuble saw blood on the ice and then realized it was his. He had his ankle, which was hit just about the top of his skate, taped up for the rest of the game before getting the stitches.

Knuble practiced Wednesday and will play Thursday against the Rangers. His sock was soaked in blood, much like former Boston pitcher Curt Schilling’s on that famous night in the 2004 American League Championship Series.

“Yeah, but my sock isn’t going in the Hall [of Fame],” Knuble said.

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