- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

OTTAWA — Mike Green has missed 47 games with ankle and groin injuries. Nicklas Backstrom has missed 22 with a concussion. That’s a lot for the Washington Capitals to be missing, though playing without stars has become something of a norm.

“I don’t think we’ve gotten used to dealing with it,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “I think it’s been hard on us.”

Then came this week and a lower-body injury to captain Alex Ovechkin, whom the Capitals have always relied on heavily for scoring, but especially in Backstrom’s absence. The captain missed Wednesday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators, and it’s uncertain what his status will be moving forward.

And though it’s another blow to a team fighting for a playoff spot, the Caps understand the situation and the onus it puts on other players to perform.

“It really shouldn’t matter who’s in the lineup,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “It obviously helps when your star players are in the lineup and going. … Guys just need to get back on track right now.”

In the past six games going into Wednesday night, Brooks Laich was the only forward not named Ovechkin or Alexander Semin to contribute a goal. That lack of secondary scoring has been damaging and would be even more substantial if Ovechkin misses a serious amount of time.

Washington is 24-6-3 when its star left wing records at least a point. Ovechkin is the Capitals‘ leading scorer with 24 goals and 21 assists.

“You can’t fill those shoes. We don’t have that ability to fill that offensive talent,” Hendricks said. “But at the same time, we feel it’s going to give someone else a chance to step up and provide.”

Not just someone else but a lot of someone elses. Left wing Jason Chimera looked set for an upgrade in playing time with Ovechkin out, though the speedster had one goal in his past 19 games. Right wing Joel Ward has one in his past 46 and Brouwer one in his past 17.

So where does the offense need to come from?

“It’s everybody, I think,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I wouldn’t put it on one guy. When Ovi’s in, everybody puts it usually on him and Sasha [Semin]. When he’s out, I don’t think it should be on one person. I think it should be everybody. We should get a goal from the fourth line; we should get a goal from the ‘D,’ and the guys that score a little bit more often, it’d be nice to get one from them.”

The silver lining might be what happened when Ovechkin sat out three games in late January and early February because of suspension. Everyone had to be sharp to compensate for his absence, and Washington went 1-1-1, even beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

Given recent scoring woes up and down the lineup, this could serve as just another spark.

“I think we’ve been putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to score lately, so a little more pressure, I don’t think it’ll hurt us. I think it’ll help us,” Hendricks said. “We just need to figure out ways to start scoring some goals.”

Brouwer argued that the key to better offense is limiting turnovers, which is a fundamental principle with or without Ovechkin.

“I really think our biggest problem is protection of the puck, and it’s not just battling in the corners for protection,” he said. “It’s dumping in the right areas, making sure that you’re able to get the puck back and not turn it over. That’s the main thing is just a lot of work and taking care of that puck.”

That doesn’t change no matter the personnel. Center Keith Aucoin stepped back into the lineup at Ottawa, though the roster could be in flux by games Friday and Saturday with the trade deadline (Monday) approaching.

For now, this is the group that needs to make up for Ovechkin’s absence. And though players don’t think a bevy of key injuries have gotten them accustomed to anything, they don’t want to use them as an excuse, either.

“Every team goes through injuries, and they have their star players, their great players,” defenseman Dennis Wideman said. “You look at Pittsburgh; they’ve dealt with it for the last two years. You have to find a way to win.”

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