The Capitals’ captain is back.
Alex Ovechkin returned from his native Moscow on Monday afternoon and made his Kettler Capitals Iceplex debut on Tuesday morning, joining a handful of teammates for an informal practice.
If it seems like Ovechkin is back in town a few weeks earlier than usual, you’d be correct. I'm told he wanted to allow ample time to get re-acclimated and, just as important, put in some additional work with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish, who oversees the summer skates.
Training camp is set to open in mid-September.
Arriving earlier, though, wasn’t the only thing that was different. Ovechkin also appeared to be slimmer as he went through about 75 minutes of drills, which concluded with timed suicides.
Ovechkin, who turns 32 next month, was the heaviest player on the Capitals’ roster last season, listed by the team as 6-3, 239-pounds.
The three-time MVP did not speak to reporters following the workout, but Kuznetsov confirmed that Ovechkin is, in fact, a bit lighter.
“You can see he lost some weight,” 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?”
In late May, following another second round loss to the Penguins, Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan acknowledged that Ovechkin “had a down year” after totaling 33 goals, his lowest total in a non-lockout year since 2010-11. MacLellan also challenged the burly Russian to approach his offseason training differently.
“The game’s getting faster,” MacLellan said at the time. “He’s going to have to train in a different way, a more speed way instead of a power way. He’s gonna have to make adjustments to stay [relevant] in the game.”
MacLellan did not specifically address Ovechkin's weight, but it's common for players to attempt to shed a few pounds as they age in an effort to keep up.
It’s way early to draw any conclusions, obviously. But it sure appears that Ovechkin may have taken MacLellan’s words to heart.
“It's always good when you see the guys who are 30 or more years, they know they have to practice hard,” Kuznetsov said. “For me, when you get a couple more kilograms, it's a couple practices [to lose it]. But for older guys that takes like five, six days. That's tough. That's why the older guys have to work more and more and more.”
Orlov laughed off a question about Ovechkin’s weight, joking that the reporter should ask Ovi himself. Orlov did, however, acknowledge that Ovechkin worked hard during the offseason.
“He’s going to be good,” Orlov said. “He’s a professional and he worked hard this summer so he can prepare for the season, and I think he’s going to be good.”
On Tuesday, Ovechkin, Orlov and Kuznetsov joined a growing group of Capitals for Nemish’s weekday workouts. Also on the ice were defensive prospects Connor Hobbs, Lucas Johansen and Jonas Siegenthaler, goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Vitek Vanecek and forwards Nathan Walker and Sam Anas, a local who is a prospect for the Wild. Braden Holtby and John Carlson, meanwhile, have also participated in recent weeks.
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