Midway through the Capitals’ practice on Thursday, Alex Ovechkin and Karl Alzner went hard at each other, pushing and shoving like a pair of bulls locked in a pen. After about 30 seconds, the whistle blew to end the drill. Ovechkin flexed his bicep at Alzner and smiled.
Alzner did the same and the two exchanged fist bumps.
“It was good,” Alzner said. “I tried to challenge myself. Ovi is the type of guy where if you push him a little bit he really ramps it up and pushes back. That’s when you get to feel the full effect of playing against him.
“It’s funny to see when he flexes his muscle after because even when you put everything into him he doesn’t move. It’s a good challenge.”
These days, with little practice time and three sets of back-to-back games among the final 10 of the regular season, the Capitals are trying to get the most out of their practices and that means plenty of battle drills.
“We’ve had a lot of days off lately and I know personally, one day off is good enough for me,” Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “Sometimes the more days you get off the more sluggish you get. It’s important for guys to make sure they’re in the best shape possible heading into the playoffs.”
Following their two-game trip to Pittsburgh and Ottawa, Capitals coach Barry Trotz gave the Caps the day off on Wednesday, following a pattern he’s used all season when the team has two days or more between games.
On Friday the Caps will not conduct a morning skate in Newark, which is fine with some players and not so fine with others (just ask the goalies). The Caps will also not have a morning skate on Saturday and will be given off on Easter Sunday.
“That’s what we struggle with on a daily basis,” Trotz said. “Rest is a weapon if used correctly. Rest is no good if you don’t. When we practice, practice hard. And when we don’t practice, rest.”
Having won just two of their last nine games in regulation (5-3-1) Alzner said a little energy is something the Caps need right now.
“Today was once of the more intense practices we’ve had in a while,” he said. “You see guys battling a little more. We haven’t had many options to practice and it’s hard. You start to lose a little bit of your edge. I think today was a good day for us and the morale is really up right now.”