ARLINGTON, Va. -- One of the biggest obstacles for players acquired at the trade deadline is fitting them into the locker room. Personalities don't always mesh and new players can have a hard time fitting in with their new teammates on the fly. That certainly will not be an issue for the Capitals and the newly acquired Ilya Kovalchuk who already is a familiar face for several of the team's players.
"Sometimes in the summer, we would say ‘It would be nice if you’re going to be one day on the Washington Capitals team,'" Alex Ovechkin said, who is friends with Kovalchuk. "But with the salary cap and all those different things, it was different things.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov said Kovalchuk was a player he would watch as a kid. Then he met him playing for the national team.
"He's always joke around and you don't feel he's much older than you because we always talk about the same things," Kuznetsov said.
Kovalchuk is a well-known name around the NHL as he was a superstar player when he was younger. He also has a relationship with many of the Caps' Russian players playing with them on the national team. It was while representing Russia that Ovechkin and Kovalchuk first began talking about playing together in the NHL, back when they were still teenagers.
"Since we were 13 years old," Kovalchuk said. "We played together on the national team, but never for the same team, usually we battle against each other, but it is always nice when you are older to get a chance to play together for sure."
Once the trade was finalized, Kovalchuk, of course, called Ovechkin to give him the news.
"Actually they were all together, the Russians, I mean," Kovalchuk said. "They were excited, I was excited. They said I should fly right away and I said, 'no, no I need to take my time.'"
But Kovalchuk did not come to Washington just to play with Ovechkin. He has his sights set on a Cup.
The Montreal Canadiens had more offers for the Russian sniper's services than just the Caps' offer of a third-round pick, but general manager Marc Bergevin asked Kovalchuk where he wanted to go and he chose Washington because he wanted to win a Stanley Cup.
"It's a great team and you know, very offensive-team minded," Kovalchuk said. "So I like the way the team played when I play against them like two days before I got traded or like a week before so it's nice. The team is one of the top division teams and have a great chance to do something special."
On the ice, Kovalchuk should fit in about as seamlessly as he will in the locker room.
The Caps have lacked much scoring punch on the third line this season with the loss of Brett Connolly and Andre Burakovsky in the offseason. Carl Hagelin and Richard Panik both have seven goals each this season. In 39 games, Kovalchuk already has nine.
"He’s a good fit for our team, brings some depth, brings lots of options to play with, so it’s good," Ovechkin said.
In addition, Kovalchuk provides an additional weapon for a second power-play unit that really has had no go-to scorer for Kuznetsov to set up.
"We're going to bring something new, not just to practice," Kuznetsov said. "I hope we're going to get some opportunities during the game. It's not just Game 68 or whatever, those most important moments in a game, we're going to get the momentum, we're going to change the game. I believe that both units can be dangerous and I believe it will be hard to defense."
Said Kovalchuk, "I think we have all the tools here so it is all in my hands to work hard to get together, as a team, as a group and play well in playoffs."
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