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Ovi 'looking forward' to working with Oates

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Ovi 'looking forward' to working with Oates

Lets face it. If Adam Oates is going to be successful as the new coach of the Capitals, his first order of business will be forging a strong relationship with Alex Ovechkin.

That process started shortly after Oates accepted his first head coaching job in the NHL on Tuesday when he received a congratulatory phone call from his 26-year-old captain.

I just talked to him briefly and he seems to be a great person, Ovechkin said during a break in the NHL Players Association meetings in Chicago. Im looking forward to working with him. Youre always excited when something big happens with your team.

I hope were going to work well and were going to play and were going to win I think.

After enjoying MVP seasons in 2008 and 2009 under Bruce Boudreau, Ovechkin admitted he felt handcuffed under Dale Hunters defense-first system last season, which encouraged strong defensive positioning and shot-blocking.

He says hes optimistic Oates will bring a fresh look to the Capitals that allows him to be more creative with the puck and re-ignite his game.

Its not blocking the shots and its not dump and chase, Ovechkin said. Any system that I play I learn a lot. Im an offensive guy, its not a secret to anybody, and Im pretty excited and very happy to hear the Caps signed that kind of guy who likes offense.

To his credit, Ovechkin adapted to Hunters system last season, but finished with a career-low 65 points and was at odds with the defensive posture Hunter took after the Capitals took a lead.

As the Devils assistant coach, Oates worked hard with Ilya Kovalchuk to broaden his game and Capitals associate coach Olie Kolzig said he believes he can have a similar impact on Ovechkins game.

The sheer fact Ovi reached out to Oatesy shows me that Alex is excited about having him as a coach, said Kolzig, who spent three years as Oates road roommate when they both played for the Capitals. Because Im sure Ovi talked to Kovalchuk about him. Maybe this is just the spark that he needs.

With the Devils, Oates encouraged Kovalchuk to make more give-and-go plays instead of trying to beat players one-on-one. Kolzig said he expects Oates to employ a similar tactic with Ovechkin.

Adam was the give-and go king, Kolzig said. That guy was unbelievable with the puck. Thats one thing he might try to get across to Ovi. Hey, instead of trying to beat guys one-on-one all the time, use Nicky Backstrom to your advantage.

Nicky is an Adam Oates-type player. He can make a pass with the best of them. Oatesy might ask Ovi to utilize the players on the ice to benefit himself instead of trying to beat everybody one-on-one.

Say this about Ovechkin. He made the first step in forming a good relationship with his new coach by pulling out his cell phone and giving Oates a call.

I think coaches and players have to have a good relationship, especially in the kind of situation where we have right now, said Ovechkin. Its nice.

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Game 58: Capitals at Blackhawks Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 58: Capitals at Blackhawks Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Where: United Center, Chicago, Ill.

When: 8:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blackhawks will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Blackhawks game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLACKHAWKS GAME?

The Capitals (33-17-7) take on the Blackhawks (24-26-8) Saturday, February 17 at 8:30 p.m. ET in Chicago.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLACKHAWKS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Blackhawks game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 7:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 8:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 11:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 12:30 a.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

7:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
8:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blackhawks
11:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
12:30 a.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLACKHAWKS GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Blackhawks game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Alex Chiasson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Jakub Vrana, Taylor Chorney

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLACKHAWKS GAME?

The Capitals-Blackhawks game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

CAPITALS-BLACKHAWKS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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NHL Awards tracker: How Malkin is helping Ovechkin's case for the Hart

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: How Malkin is helping Ovechkin's case for the Hart

A week by week look at where the race for the major individual NHL awards stands and which Caps could be in contention.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been red-hot as of late and so has Evgeni Malkin. In his last nine games, Malkin has tallied a whopping 11 goals and 17 points. His current run has some people talking about him contending for the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.

But if you want to talk about Malkin for the Hart, you have to talk about Alex Ovechkin as well.

Malkin has 66 points this season, Ovechkin has 65. Even with his impressive goal run of late, Malkin still trails Ovechkin in the goal-scoring race 34-32. What's more, Ovechkin's Capitals still hold a three-point lead over Pittsburgh with two games in hand in the Metropolitan Division.

Granted all of this could change by next week. Perhaps Malkin will pass Ovechkin in goals or the Penguins will pass the Caps in the standings which will change the conversation. Until then, however, there's no way to push Malkin's Hart candidacy without thinking about Ovechkin. What he is doing at the age of 32 with a Capitals team in which no one really knew what to expect is more impressive than what the 31-year-old Malkin is doing with players like Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby with the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is third among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With two rookies on the blue line and an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Braden Holtby

In contention for: Vezina

Holtby is on pace to be a 40-win goalie for the fourth consecutive season. He would be the first goalie in NHL history to accomplish that feat.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

If Malkin is a Hart candidate, so is Ovechkin who has done more with less in Washington this season.

Barry Trotz

In contention for: Jack Adams

The Caps still hold a three-point lead in the Metropolitan Division despite having two rookies on the blue line, dealing with more injuries than they have seen in years and down offensive years for some of its top players. Trotz deserves a lot of credit for that.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!