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A slimmer looking Alex Ovechkin returned to Caps practice on Tuesday

A slimmer looking Alex Ovechkin returned to Caps practice on Tuesday

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.

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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.

MORE CAPITALS: Who is the top left wing in the NHL?

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JJ vs. the fans bold predictions: A big night for Tom Wilson?

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JJ vs. the fans bold predictions: A big night for Tom Wilson?

In the very first edition of JJ vs. the fans bold predictions, no one got a single prediction right. Well, there’s nowhere to go but up!

The Caps hit the road on Friday to take on the Detroit Red Wings (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Washington Plus). Let’s check out our predictions.

RELATED: MADISON BOWEY IS ALREADY LOOKING MUCH IMPROVED

Fan predictions:

For those who don't know, a Gordie Howe hat trick is a goal, an assist and a fight all in one game. Tom Wilson gets the promotion to the top line tonight and Wade is expecting big things. I am not so bullish on it. I think adjusting to a new line and a new side, Wilson has moved from right wing to left, will take Wilson some time.

The Caps face former defenseman Mike Green and Garrett thinks he is going to get one past Braden Holtby. This is pretty bold considering Green has yet to record a single point in five games against his former squad.

The Capitals’ defense has had its problems of late and it has certainly dragged down the penalty kill. Remember how hot the penalty kill was to start the season? Now the Caps rank 19th in the league at 78.6-percent. Still, two power play goals is a lot considering Detroit ranks 24th in the NHL with a success rate of only 14.8-percent.

MORE CAPITALS: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-RED WINGS

JJ’s predictions:

The Caps will allow more than two goals

Washington’s defense is not as bad as they looked against Philadelphia, but it isn't as good as they looked against Toronto either. One thing that helped against the Maple Leafs was that the game was at home. Barry Trotz could get the favorable matchups for his rookie defensemen as his team had the second change. That won’t be true on Friday in Detroit. The defense will struggle as a result.

John Carlson will play more than he did against Toronto

See above. Carlson logged a hefty 27:33 on Tuesday and that was with the Caps getting the second change. The Caps will rely even more on him on the road.

Washington will get at least two goals form players not named Ovechkin, Oshie and Backstrom

Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom have 17 of the Caps’ 22 goals this season. Perhaps the big three will have another big night, but eventually the team will need someone else to step up and score. Whether because the team emphasizes it or through just dumb luck, the Caps are going to record a few points from a few of their other players on Friday.

Want to see your tweet among the fan predictions for the next game? Tweet your prediction to @JJReganNBCS every game day! Remember, we don’t just want to know who will win or the score, we want to see specifics. Be bold!

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In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

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In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

Madison Bowey’s second game went a lot better than his first and it’s not just because the Caps allowed only two goals as opposed to eight.

Despite being thrust into a significant role in his first taste of NHL experience, Bowey seemed to settle in a bit in his second contest even as it came against the NHL’s best offense in the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Just everything in the first game felt like it happened so quick, I think,” Bowey said Thursday after the team’s practice. “It was obviously nice to come back in Washington and play in the home in front of the home crowd, get a practice in on Monday before the game Tuesday with the team. Just all the little factors that went into it definitely helped and I think it definitely felt a lot smoother out there on the ice.”

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Playing at home definitely has its benefits for the coaching staff as they try to protect the rookie defensemen. Home teams get the chance to change after the visiting team allowing the coaches to pick the matchups they want for Bowey.

More favorable matchups certainly helped him, but Bowey also seemed to play with more confidence and a level of calm that was not there against Philadelphia. For Bowey, the difference was having time to settle in and practice with the team.

“Obviously this team is one of the veteran teams in the league so to be able to practice against top players in the league, it goes a long way,” Bowey said.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS SHOULD NOT TRADE PROSPECT IIYA SAMSONOV

Bowey was called up for a Saturday game in Philadelphia after Matt Niskanen suffered a hand injury Friday in New Jersey. That means he quickly had to join the team and jump into the lineup for his first ever NHL game without any practice with the Caps at all.

Bowey now has two practices and two games under his belt and even a team-building day at FBI training. The effect that has had on his game was noticeable on Tuesday. It should be even more clear on Friday as the team travels to face the Detroit Red Wings.

“I feel myself improving every day,” Bowey said. “It forces you to really work hard and be on your top every day you come to the rink so for me, just having those two practices already have been huge. I feel the development's getting a lot better early.”