Flyers
USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Slimmer Alex Ovechkin makes early debut at Capitals' workouts

ARLINGTON, Va. -- A slimmer, trimmer-looking Alex Ovechkin is back on the ice for summer workouts more than two weeks before the start of training camp.

The Russian superstar skated in an informal practice with Washington Capitals teammates on Tuesday and looked lighter than his playing weight of 239 pounds last season. If that's indeed the case, Ovechkin took to heart the challenge from general manager Brian MacLellan to train differently and add more speed to his game as he's about to turn 32.

A team spokesman said Ovechkin would not speak to reporters until the first day of training camp in September. But his teammates certainly notice a change in Ovechkin's physique.

"You can see he lost some weight," center Evgeny Kuznetsov said. "Every year you're trying to be better. You change something in the summer. Ovi's like other guys, too -- he wants to change something, right? It's always nice to see when your teammates get better. They change. They try something new."

Ovechkin is already trying something new by getting to the D.C. area in late August, which is earlier than usual for captain and 13-year pro. Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and fellow Russian Dmitry Orlov all flew back together, joining goaltender Philipp Grubauer and others (see full story).

Devils: Butcher feels he is ready to play right now
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Will Butcher believes he is ready to play for the New Jersey Devils right now.

A day after signing a two-year, $1.85 million contract with the rebuilding Devils, the 22-year-old Butcher said he was ready to make the jump from being college hockey's top player to the NHL without a stop in the minor leagues.

Speaking on a conference call, the defenseman said he chose to sign with New Jersey because he felt good after meeting coach John Hynes and he thought the Devils' up-tempo system best fit his game.

Butcher was drafted in the fifth round by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013 at the Prudential Center -- the Devils' home rink. He became a free agent on Aug. 15 after failing to reach an agreement with Colorado, although the former University of Denver player said he knew by May he intended to test the free agent market.

After meeting with a number of teams, his decision came down to the Devils, Las Vegas, Buffalo and Los Angeles.

"It seemed like a great fit in how I wanted to play, and they saw me being in a better role with what they wanted to do there," Butcher said of choosing New Jersey. "It kind of reminded me a little bit of how we were going to play with my college hockey" (see full story).

NHL: Russian winger Zaripov cleared to pursue contract
Danis Zaripov will get the chance to take his talents to North America after the NHL approved the Russian winger's eligibility following a doping ban in the Kontinental Hockey League and international play.

The 36-year-old Zaripov is free to sign with any team and could be the latest established Russian player to make an immediate impact in the NHL. Agent Dan Milstein said Zaripov is looking for a one-year contract so he can prove himself.

"He's going to be a huge contributor to whatever team that he will choose," Milstein said.

Even that is only possible after the NHL ruled that the suspension by the KHL and International Ice Hockey Federation wouldn't have happened under its rules and found Zaripov eager to show he didn't intentionally use a banned substance.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Monday that Zaripov was cleared in part because pseudoephedrine is not on the NHL/NHL Players' Association prohibited substances list and that he was not allowed to testify at his hearing for the initial suspension . He added that the league approved Zaripov's status after the veteran forward testified last week and it reviewed evidence related to the suspension.

"I look forward to continuing my professional hockey playing career in North America, and today I am very grateful to the senior management of the NHL for its decision, which provides me the opportunity to do so," Zaripov said in a statement (see full story).