Karl Alzner

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Ovechkin offered Alzner some advice ahead of Saturday's meeting

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Ovechkin offered Alzner some advice ahead of Saturday's meeting

Alex Ovechkin offered Karl Alzner a little advice in a recent text message conversation between the former teammates.

“He said, ‘Don’t block any of my shots,’” Alzner cracked Friday afternoon, moments after Montreal wrapped up its practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “We’ll see.”

Alzner, who signed with the Habs as a free agent this summer after spending nine seasons in Washington, will make his return to D.C. on Saturday at Capital One Arena.

So why were Alzer and Ovechkin texting one another late Thursday night? Alzner initiated the conversation, reaching out to Ovi after No. 8 scored a hat trick to rally the Caps for a 5-4 shootout victory in Ottawa.

Alzner wanted to congratulate him—and rekindle an old joke.

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“There was a little inside joke that we all had last year and when I saw that he had a hat trick [in] the first game of the year I texted him that joke and he replied laughing and told me he switched to CCM [sticks] and this and that,” Alzner said with a smile. “So it was brief, but it was just kind of funny. There’s some guys that I’m very close with, and it’s just natural that we’ll keep in touch.”

Alzner’s challenge Saturday night will be twofold: No. 1) he’ll need to keep his emotions in check as he returns to his first NHL home and No. 2) he could see some time marking Ovechkin’s line—something he’s done hundreds of times in practice but never in a game.

“You can’t let him shoot, that’s the main thing,” Alzner said, asked if there’s any secret to shutting Ovechkin down. “You watched yesterday. If you watch his goals, you just give him an inch and he can score. It’s crazy. With guys on him, it doesn’t matter. So that’s the main thing. If you take away his space, it can help. I’ve seen it work in the past, but I’ve also seen him fight through it. So it’s just manage it as best you can. I don’t think there’s one secret to him.”

RELATED: DESPITE SHOOTOUT WIN, CAPS DEFENSE STILL NEEDS WORK

Asked if he’s ever wondered what it would feel like to catch on Ovechkin one-timer off the shin pad, Alzner said he had thought about it—recently, in fact.

“I’m really happy he plays on the other side so I don’t have those one-timers on the PK and all that stuff,” Alzner joked. “I’ve went through all these things. So, yeah, I’ve thought about it. But when it comes down to it there’s other guys that shoot hard, too, and you still find a way to put yourself in front of it. So if it happens, it happens.”

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Karl Alzner made one final visit to the Caps on Saturday

Karl Alzner made one final visit to the Caps on Saturday

After nine years as a Capital, Karl Alzner couldn’t leave without saying goodbye.

Washington’s longtime Iron Man stopped by Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Saturday to shake hands and say thank you to the Capitals’ training and medical staffs as well as other members of the front office.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Alzner told CSN as left the practice facility.

“It’s nice to see all the love from the trainers and stuff,” he continued. “It's going to be a little bit strange. At the same time, I’m excited to get a new opportunity. [Montreal] is the franchise in the league; it’s hockey. I don’t think it really gets much better than that. It’s competitive and [there’s] management and ownership that’s willing to do absolutely anything to win. That’s kind of the dream, for a player that especially hasn’t won a cup yet. So I’m pretty excited about that.”

Alzner signed a five year, $23.1 million deal with the Canadiens for an annual average value of $4.625 million on Saturday. The 28-year-old defenseman earned $2.8 million last season in Washington.

Although Alzner had known for a while that he wouldn’t be returning to the Caps, it didn’t make a hectic process any easier to stomach in recent days.

“It’s been crazy,” said Alzner, who was drafted by Washington 5th overall in 2007. “It hasn’t been a whole lot of fun. A lot of people say this must be awesome, you get the pick of the litter and figure out where you want to go, where you want to live. It's not really that way. For some guys it is. [But] there are so many decisions to make, especially when you have family and roots as deep as we have here. You have to be smart about your decision. We had some really good opportunities and Montreal was definitely the best one.”

As excited as Alzner is to be joining a franchise steeped in tradition and coming off a division title, he also acknowledged that he had a little trepidation—at first, anyway—about the intense scrutiny that players face in a hockey-mad city like Montreal vs. Washington.

“A lot of talking, a lot feeling nauseous at times because me and Mandy are homebodies and we’re pretty private,” he said, referring to his wife. “So there were a lot of uneasy moments but in the end we feel pretty good.”

So now Alzner is a Canadien. But before totally shifting into Montreal mode, he had a stop he needed to make—at the Caps’ rink where he greeted trainers, coaches and other team employees. He was flanked by Mandy.

“These guys are our family,” Alzner said. “We’ve spent a ton of time together. We’re pretty tight and they all wanted to say bye, too. I know that everyone kind of takes off for the summer so we knew was this was probably one of our only opportunities to do that.”

Oh, and there was one more reason he stopped at Kettler.

“And to send a few packages out before I get completely cut off,” he cracked.

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Report: Karl Alzner signs five-year deal with Montreal

Report: Karl Alzner signs five-year deal with Montreal

For the first time in his NHL career, defenseman Karl Alzner has signed with a team other than the Washington Capitals. It's being reported that Alzner has agreed to terms with the Montreal Canadiens on a five-year deal. 

Alzner has spent his entire nine-season NHL career with the Capitals proving himself to be one of the most dependable defensemen on the team. The veteran defenseman had an iron man streak of 599 games snapped in the postseason this year due to an upper body injury. It was the first time he has missed a game for the Caps since 2010.

A stay at home defenseman, Alzner does not fit the mold of the speedy puck-moving style the NHL seems to be moving more towards in recent years. But Alzner still has value as a shutdown defenseman, penalty killer and shot blocker. So why could the Caps not retain him?

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The biggest reason is money. At 28 years old, this will be Alzner’s “cash in” deal, the big contract he signs while in his prime after a solid resume of work. A cash-strapped Capitals team simply could not afford to pay him the $22.5 million that Montreal is committing to him. 

In 591 games with the Caps, Alzner scored 19 goals and 98 assists. Along with his strong defensive play, fans in Washington will miss his personality and especially his mustache.