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Capitals Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Orlov go behind enemy lines at Penguins' practice rink

Capitals Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Orlov go behind enemy lines at Penguins' practice rink

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa.—The Penguins’ locker room at their gleaming practice facility in suburban Pittsburgh featured a distinctly different look Sunday night. With Team Russia in town for a World Cup of Hockey practice, red and gold was everywhere. Russia's team crest adorned the carpet and the lockers. Name tags for Ovechkin, Orlov and Kuznetsov hung above the stalls.

The weirdness of it all was not lost on the Capitals’ captain, who seemed amused that his temporary locker was just a couple of inches from where Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby normally dresses.  

“Yeah, it’s kind of weird,” Ovechkin cracked. “The guys joke around.”

“I think Sid is sitting here,” he added, gesturing toward an empty locker between his stall and Evgeni Malkin’s. “They put my here next to his stall, so it’s kind of weird.”

Ovechkin and his Russian teammates arrived from the Czech Republic around 5 p.m. Sunday evening and by 7:45 were on the ice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex for a vigorous hour long skate. Jetlag be damned. With a pre-tournament game against Canada on Wednesday night at the CONSOL Energy Center looming, there was no time to waste.   

Asked what kind of reception he expects to receive from the Pittsburgh crowd, Ovechkin smiled and said only, “We’ll see.”

During the practice, Ovechkin once again skated on a line with Washington teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov. Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov, meantime, also worked alongside Ovechkin and Kuznetsov since Russia’s practice groupings consist of one forward line and one D-pairing.

That familiarity, though, may or may not help Team Russia, according to Ovechkin.   

“Yeah, chemistry is always nice to have, but right now it’s a little bit too early to talk about chemistry,” Ovechkin said. “We play only two [pre-tournament] games. It’s kind of hard to say how it’s going to go in Toronto, but we are going to play our best and try to win some games.”

International competitions mean a lot to Russia and Ovechkin, who was recently named captain of his homeland’s World Cup entry. He last served as the national team captain at the 2014 World Championships, where Russia captured gold.

“I tell the coach right away, ‘Thanks,’” Ovechkin said. “Lots of players here in the team—[Andrei] Markov, [Pavel] Datsyuk, Geno [Malkin]—all these guys can be the captain. It’s a huge honor.”

Speaking of Malkin, what does he think about sharing the Penguins’ locker room with a trio of Capitals?  

“We’re friends,” the Pittsburgh star said. “They’re good guys. It’s very funny. Lots of joking around. It’s a great time.”

Well, at least until Oct. 13th—when the Penguins raise their fourth championship banner prior to host the Caps in the regular season opener.

MORE CAPITALS: Orlov on contract talks: 'We'll see'

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Want to witness history? Why Saturday's game is a good bet for Alex Ovechkin to score 700

Want to witness history? Why Saturday's game is a good bet for Alex Ovechkin to score 700

Alex Ovechkin is capable of scoring any time against any team, but if you're trying to pinpoint when history could happen and see goal No. 700, there are plenty of reasons to be watching Saturday's marquee matchup against the New Jersey Devils (1 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).

In three games this season, Ovechkin has scored four times against New Jersey. On Jan. 16, he was bloodied by a high stick from Miles Wood and left for the locker room returning before the first period was up and scored twice. He did not just get mad, he got even and completed the hat trick in the third period.

Head coach Alain Nasreddine did not reveal who his starter would be in net on Friday, but it will be either MacKenzie Blackwood or Cory Schneider. Keep your fingers crossed for Schneider.

Schneider has not played an NHL game since Jan. 18 and was recalled from the AHL on Thursday most likely because Louis Domingue is headed out of town in a trade and the team wanted to protect the asset. Schneider has a 4.65 GAA and .852 save percentage in nine games. Ovechkin has also had plenty of success against him in the past, scoring eight times against the Devils netminder. He has only managed one goal on Blackwood, but it came this season on Dec. 12, 2019.

Ovechkin has a history of success against the Devils. In 56 games against New Jersey, Ovechkin scored in 22 of them. He has 29 total goals including two of his 28 career hat tricks against the Devils.

New Jersey ranks 30th in the NHL in goals against and, although they have improved in that area since Jan. 1, they still rank 21st in that time keeping the puck out of the net.

Add in the fact that the trade deadline firesale has already begun with the Devils shipping out Blake Coleman and captain Andy Greene in the past week, as well as Taylor Hall back in December, and this may be a team not ready to stop Ovechkin's march to history.

With Ovechkin on the verge of 700, there's no doubt that Saturday's marquee matchup (1 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) is one you won't want to miss.

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Alex Ovechkin's son, Sergei, makes an appearance during Capitals practice

Alex Ovechkin's son, Sergei, makes an appearance during Capitals practice

The Capitals had a special guest during their morning skate on Friday.

Alex Ovechkin's son, Sergei, got to pay his father a visit at the Medstar Capitals Iceplex.

Ovechkin carried his one-year-old around the ice and even put him down on the ice to practice his skills. Sergei had a mini stick of his own, almost like he was ready to play if needed.

No word yet on whether Sergei plans on declaring for the upcoming NHL draft, but the kid has already got some skills--and not to mention pretty good genes.

If you were having a bad day, this moment between Ovechkin and his son will certainly cheer you up!

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