Capitals

Quick Links

Alex Ovechkin excited to join club of 'legendary' Russian forwards

Alex Ovechkin excited to join club of 'legendary' Russian forwards

Alex Ovechkin doesn’t need any extra incentive when facing Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rival Penguins.

But he’ll have some on Wednesday night when the Capitals face the Penguins, anyway.

With one more point, Ovechkin will join the 1,000 point club. He’ll also become just the fourth Russian player to achieve the feat, joining Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Mogilny and Alexei Kovalev.

“It’s small but it’s [a] very legendary club,” Ovechkin said after the morning skate. “I get lucky to play with Fedorov for a couple years [in Washington] and I know him as a person. It’ll be nice to be with him, in the same company.”

RELATED: OVECHKIN GREETS FAN WHO TRAVELED OVER 4,000 MILES TO MEET HIM

Ovechkin added that he feels fortunate to get the opportunity to add a comma to his career point total at Verizon Center, the building where his NHL journey began 12 years ago.

“It’s a real big number,” he said. “Obviously it’s nice to get [the chance] at home, in front of fans, my family. It’s going to be a big moment.”

Ovechkin also gave a nod to his friends and family in Russia—even the ones who typically root for Malkin and the Penguins.

“All my friends texted me and said they are going to watch the game back at home,” Ovechkin said.

“I have friends who are cheering for Penguins and they [are] going to be cheering for me right now. It’s going to be a great day for fans and for us. It’s going to be a fun night to play.”

The 31-year-old did, however, downplay the significance of getting the chance against his team’s biggest rival, which, by the way, is just as hot as the Caps right now, having won five games in a row and 13 of 16 (13-1-2).

“It doesn’t matter which team we’re going to play when get those kinds of milestones,” Ovi said. “I just want to get it and move forward.”

On Monday night, Ovechkin told reporters in Montreal “it means I’m getting older” after a three-point night landed him on the doorstep of No. 1,000. On Wednesday, he set the record straight regarding how he’s actually feeling.

“I don’t feel old,” he said with a grin. “I just said, when you get a 1,000 points it [means] you’ve been in the league a long time. I’m still young.”

RELATED: ARE PENGUINS ABOVE CAPITALS IN LATEST NHL POWER RANKINGS?

Quick Links

This won't be the first time Capitals turn to Lars Eller at 2nd-line center in playoffs

This won't be the first time Capitals turn to Lars Eller at 2nd-line center in playoffs

When the Capitals take the ice for Game 2 against the New York Islanders on Friday, they will be without center Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom is in concussion protocol and is unclear when he will be able to return. No team can lose a player of Backstrom's caliber and not feel that loss, but Washington does at least have a contingency plan in the form of Lars Eller. The team has had to turn to Eller on the second line in the playoffs before and, though the results were far from perfect, things did end up working out for the Caps. That year was 2018 and the Caps would go on to win the Stanley Cup.

One of the priorities of general manager Brian MacLellan is center depth. He puts a great deal of emphasis on the position and making sure the team is well-stocked in case of injury. That depth was put to the test in 2018 when Backstrom suddenly was out of the lineup in the playoffs with an upper-body injury. That injury turned out to be two fractures in his right hand and it kept him out for four games, starting with Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With Backstrom out, Eller was called upon to center the second line in his absence.

“I love when those challenges happen because I think I don’t change the way I think about the game or the way I prepare myself," Eller said. "It will basically mean I will be playing more minutes probably than I otherwise would. My mentality is the same, trying to go out there and play a strong two-way game and create offense in every shift."

RELATED: LOSING NICKLAS BACKSTROM WOULD BE 'HUGE TROUBLE' FOR THE CAPITALS

Offensively, the results were great. In those four games, Eller recorded two goals and three assists. There is not much more that could have been asked of him in that respect. Defensively, however, it was another story.

Eller is a good defensive player, but Backstrom is one of the team's best defensive forwards and has been one of the top two-way forwards in the league for much of his career. When you are on the second line you are typically going to get more difficult defensive assignments and Eller struggled at times against those assignments. In Game 6 against the Penguins, Washington allowed only one goal. It came off a faceoff that Eller lost in the defensive zone. In Game 3 of the Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Eller took three bad penalties, one for closing his hand on the puck, one for slashing and one for cross-checking. Tampa Bay would score on his first penalty and earn their first win of the series.

This is not to suggest that Eller was or is a defensive liability, it's just a reflection of the difference between him and Backstrom. Eller is a high-end third-line center. That is where he is at his best and he makes the Caps one of the deepest offensive teams in the NHL. He can plug into the top-six when needed, but he is a third-line center. The Caps are very fortunate to have a player like him who can step into the top lines, but the longer Backstrom is out for, the more noticeable his absence becomes and 2018 is evidence of that.

Now, fast-forward to 2020. Eller will once again be called upon to play on the second line due to an injury to Backstrom. He even is expected to play with the same linemates -- Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie -- as he did in 2018.  If it's just for a game or two, you may not even notice a difference. With every passing game, however, the absence of Backstrom will loom larger, not because of Eller, but because of how good and important a player Backstrom is.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

How to watch Capitals vs. Islanders Game 2

How to watch Capitals vs. Islanders Game 2

After getting out to an early lead in Game 1, a few critical mistakes led to the Capitals falling to the New York Islanders 4-2 to begin their Stanley Cup run.

Now, in Game 2, Washington will look to get back on track and even the series. A physical Game 1 means more fireworks are probably in store for Friday.

You're not going to want to miss this one. Here's how to watch. 

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS HOW TO WATCH 

What: No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 6 New York Islanders
Where: Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada 
When: 8:00 PM ET 
TV Channel: Capitals vs. Islanders will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.
Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs. Islanders on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the MyTeams App.

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS TV SCHEDULE

7:00 PM: Caps Pregame Live (LIVE)

8:00 PM: Capitals vs. Islanders (LIVE)

10:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live (LIVE)

RELATED: GAME 2 PREVIEW

CAPITALS VS. ISLANDERS SCHEDULE (ISLANDERS LEAD 1-0)

Game 1: Wednesday, August 12, 4:04 p.m. (Islanders Win 4-2)

Game 2: Thursday, August 14, 8:00 p.m.

Game 3: Sunday, August 16, 12:00 p.m.

Game 4: Tuesday, August 18, 8:00 p.m.

Game 5: (If necessary) Thursday, August 20, TBD

Game 6: (If necessary) Saturday, August 22, TBD

Game 7: (If necessary) Sunday, August 23, TBD

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS WHAT TO WATCH 

Braden Holtby took the blame for the Game 1 loss, and Washington will need him to rebound on Friday. Goaltending may be the most crucial aspect of playoff hockey and Washington is hoping they can rely on Holtby for one last deep run.

Anders Lee's hit on Nicklas Backstrom was the talk of Game 1. It was a reason Backstrom had to exit and will not play in Game 2 as he enters the concussion protocol. Both teams were very physical for the rest of the matchup and that should continue on Friday with tensions rising. 

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS PLAYERS TO WATCH 

T.J. Oshie (26 goals, 23 assists, 49 points): Oshie was the Capitals' only source of offense on Wednesday. With two goals early on he set the tone and showed that he has a knack for showing up in the big moments. Though the Caps will need others to help, it's always good to have Oshie putting the puck in the net. 

Mathew Barzal (19 goals, 41 assists, 60 points): Barzal didn't net a goal in Game 1, but he didn't need to. His presence was still felt on offense, however, as he recorded two assists on the afternoon. If he can continue to distribute, and score every once in a while, the Capitals could be in trouble.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST

Stay connected to the Capitals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: