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After injury scare, Caps' Alex Ovechkin says he expects to be fine

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After injury scare, Caps' Alex Ovechkin says he expects to be fine

Alex Ovechkin said he doesn’t expect to miss any time, despite limping off the ice late in Monday’s practice.

Ovechkin, who was attending a photo shoot for the annual Caps Canine Calendar shortly after practice, said he “tweaked” something but that “it’s not a big deal.”

RELATED: Upper-body injury keeps Burakovsky out of practice

Ovechkin said he expects to be available to practice on Tuesday morning. 

The Caps' captain is tied with Nikita Kucherov for the league lead in goals (10). 

Speaking before the photoshoot, Coach Barry Trotz said he thought Ovechkin would be “okay” but did not elaborate.

Toward the end of Monday’s spirited practice, Ovechkin said he got tangled up with a teammate, lost an edge and went down hard. Although he limped to the locker room in the immediate aftermath, Ovechkin was not walking with any discernable difficulty at the photoshoot.

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3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

The first time the Caps host the Montreal Canadiens this season, Alex Ovechkin tallied four goals as the Caps dominated a 6-1 thrashing.

Friday's game featured considerably less offense as Montreal just managed to squeak by Washington 3-2.

Philipp Grubuaer got the start and did everything he could to keep Washington in it, but the Caps struggled to find much offense.

Alex Ovechkin did manage to register assist No. 499 as he set up John Carlson on the power play and Lars Eller scored late, but it would not be enough for the Caps to come back.

Here are the three stars of the game.

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1. Max Pacioretty: The Canadiens struggled to get anything past Grubauer in this one, but Pacioretty finally did in the second period on the power play. It was simple enough, he found the puck at his feet, turned and shot. When goalies start to frustrate teams, we see a lot of players respond by looking for the perfect play.

They give up good opportunities for more difficult passes. Pacioretty was smart, he just shot. He also added an assist on Paul Byron's goal as the puck bounced off the board and off Pacioretty's skate right to Byron.

He ultimately put the exclamation point on the win with an empty-net goal.

2. Philipp Grubauer: Grubauer certainly didn't look like a backup goalie in this one.

He was strong in net all night long, but his best save came in the first period. Pacioretty hit the side of the net to Grubauer's left on a pretty passing play, but the puck bounced out to the slot and Charles Hudon passed it over to Paul Byron on Grubauer's right. Grubauer dove with his arm outstretched and managed to corral the puck into his body to keep it out of the net.

He would finish the game with several more fantastic saves, 23 in all despite the loss.

3. Andre Burakovsky: It would be hard to draw up a better return to the lineup for Burakovsky.

He started on the fourth line, but he wasn't there for long. He had four shot attempts in a first period in which the Caps struggled to get anything going offensively at all. He also had a breakaway opportunity in the third period as he came out of the penalty box. He had Antti Niemi beat, but hit the post.

Burakovsky did just about everything right in this game, but just couldn't light the lamp.

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Pressure and confidence has taken Brett Connolly from a healthy scratch to potent scorer

Pressure and confidence has taken Brett Connolly from a healthy scratch to potent scorer

Brett Connolly is the Caps’ hottest scorer with three goals in two games, but this past week almost never happened.

With the team finally healthy, Barry Trotz has a tough decision to make every game with 13 forwards and only 12 spots in the lineup. Connolly was going to be scratched for the game on Jan. 11 against Carolina, but Andre Burakovsky came down with an illness before the game and did not play that night or travel with the team to Carolina the next. Connolly did not score on Jan. 11, but he scored a late game-tying goal in Carolina to set up Jay Beagle’s miracle buzzer-beater. In the team’s return from the bye on Thursday, Connolly scored twice including another late, game-tying goal.

This past week really is a perfect encapsulation of how Connolly’s NHL career has gone. A first-round draft pick from the 2010 draft, Connolly is brimming with talent but always seems to be on the end of two extremes. Either he is scoring like one of the Caps’ top offensive players, or he is battling just to earn a jersey every night.

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That pressure seemed to overwhelm Connolly when he first came into the league, but now it is leading him to excel.

“There's just a lot of competition through our lineup which is pushing guys to be better and it's making us a better team,” Connolly said Friday after the team’s morning skate. “We're just looking to keep going here, we're looking to keep pushing each other. We're going to make everybody better, we're going to be a better team because of it.”

Connolly came to Washington in the summer of 2016 as an unrestricted free agent on a one-year deal worth only $850,000. He became a UFA after the Boston Bruins elected not to give him a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent. For a player to go from a sixth overall draft pick to fighting to playing on a one-year deal just to keep his career alive was quite the fall, but Connolly responded with 15 goals and eight assists to earn himself a new two-year contract with Washington.

“When you're drafted in this league there's a lot of expectations,” Connolly said. “Sometimes it takes a little bit longer for other guys just to find that fit on a team. It all comes within yourself, I think. You're the only person that kind of knows how much you can bring to the table every night and how much potential you have. It comes from within.”

The way Connolly responded again this season after a near scratch cannot be lost on the coaches.

But if it was desperation that was fueling him before, now it’s confidence.

“It's all about feel, getting your touches and playing with confidence,” Connolly said. “I think when you go through these stretches, I've been through these stretches before, just try to get open. It just feels like whenever you're shooting it, it doesn't matter how good of a shot you get off sometimes, it just finds a way in.”

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It’s not hard to see why he may be feeling so confident. In addition to scoring three goals in the past two games, Connolly also has 12 goals on the season. That puts him at third on the team behind only Alex Ovechkin (28) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (13).

“I feel like I’m finally kind of figuring out the game and figuring out the way I need to play,” said Connolly.

Whether he has truly turned the corner on his career or if this is just another high in a career full of extreme highs and lows remains to be seen. But so long as he keeps feeling the pressure and confidence that has fueled him thus far, he should certainly remain among the Caps' top scorers for the season.