#Caps place center Nicklas Backstrom on long-term injury list and recall forwards Connor McMichael and Beck Malenstyn from the Hershey Bears (AHL).
George Parros, who heads the NHL's department of player safety, is also in the building tonight for Caps vs Rangers.
Happy Tom Wilson Night. Sign at @Capitals practice: “#43 lives rent free in their heads.” #NHL pic.twitter.com/U6MLNeUaC1
Good luck to the @Capitals as they start their season tonight! 👊🏿 #ALLCAPS #TheDistrict pic.twitter.com/bgE1TBRYP6
Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin back at practice but still a game-time decision for opener vs. New York Rangers
13 October, 2021 - 07:15pm
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ARLINGTON, Va. - Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin was a full participant in practice on Wednesday ahead of the team's season opener against the New York Rangers, but both the winger and coach Peter Laviolette said he remains a game-time decision.
Ovechkin, 36, skated off gingerly in the team's preseason finale against the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 8, following a collision with forward Travis Konecny. The Capitals said he had a lower-body injury. Ovechkin took part in an optional skate on Tuesday.
"My pinkie toe got hurt," joked Ovechkin after practice. "It was just a little collision. Nothing serious. We'll see how it goes."
Laviolette said it was "great to see him out there with full participation," but that the team has to check with medical staff to clear him.
Late last season, Wilson was fined $5,000 for delivering a gloved punch to the back of the head of forward Pavel Buchnevich, who is now with the St. Louis Blues. Rangers forward Artemi Panarin jumped on Wilson's back during an ensuing scrum, and Wilson responded by flipping Panarin to the ice, causing an injury that kept Panarin out of the Rangers' final three games of the season.
Incensed there wasn't a more severe punishment for Wilson, the Rangers were fined $250,000 after the team called for the firing of George Parros, who heads the NHL's department of player safety. In their final meeting of the season after the Panarin incident, the Rangers and Capitals combined for 72 penalty minutes in the first 4 minutes, 14 seconds of their fight-filled game.
The Rangers responded in the offseason by acquiring a handful of physical players, such as defenseman Jarred Tinordi and forwards Barclay Goodrow, Sammy Blais and most notably Ryan Reaves of the Vegas Golden Knights, one of the NHL's lone remaining enforcers and a longtime rival of Wilson's.
"The whole summer, it seemed to be one thing after another. I don't know what the real goal is behind it all," said Wilson, in reference to the Rangers' offseason. "All I can do is focus on our team. Having a big physical first night with the Rangers isn't where we want to be this year. I want to score goals. I want to be a leader. I want to take on more responsibility and hopefully take our team to the playoffs. Obviously, tonight there's a big spotlight on the game. It's going to be fun."
In other Capitals news, Laviolette said that goalie Vitek Vanecek will get the start in the season opener over Ilya Samsonov. "His camp, for me, was really good. Separated himself a little bit and earned the opportunity," said the coach.
13 October, 2021 - 07:15pm
13 October, 2021 - 06:24pm
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ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin said he was aware he'd likely encounter some bumps in the road during his pursuit of Wayne Gretzky's NHL goals record even before he sustained a lower-body injury that made him a game-time decision for the Washington Capitals season opener against the New York Rangers at Capital One Arena on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; TNT).
"Let's don't look too far," Ovechkin said at the start of training camp. "Game by game, step by step."
The left wing is playing against the Rangers and enters his 17th season sixth in NHL history with 730 goals, 165 away from breaking Gretzky's record of 894. That's an average of 33 goals per season during the five-year contract Ovechkin signed with Washington on July 27, with Gretzky's record at least part of his motivation.
The 36-year-old led the Capitals with 24 goals in 45 games last season despite missing an NHL career-high 11 games. That's a pace of 44 goals for an 82-game season, which the NHL will play this season after adjusting to a 56-game schedule last season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ovechkin practiced Tuesday for the first time since he was injured hitting Philadelphia Flyers forward Travis Konecny in Washington's preseason finale Friday.
It's the kind of injury Gretzky warned could be Ovechkin's biggest obstacle in chasing his record.
"Obviously, you've got to get a little bit lucky in a sense that you want to stay away from injuries as much as possible," Gretzky said Oct. 6 while promoting his new role as a studio analyst for Turner Sports. "And I don't just mean missing game injuries. I'm talking about nagging injuries where your knee is sore or your ankle is sore or your shoulder is sore, but you play through that."
Ovechkin's durability throughout his career has been almost as impressive as his goal-scoring prowess. Before a groin injury caused him to sit out seven times in an eight-game stretch from April 24-May 8 last season, Ovechkin hadn't missed a game because of injury since a lower-body injury kept him out of a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on March 5, 2015.
Before last season, when he also missed four games while in NHL COVID-19 protocol, Ovechkin hadn't missed more than four games in a season since he missed 10 in 2009-10, including six with an upper-body injury and two two-game suspensions.
"Certainly he probably he has a different tolerance than other people," Capitals defenseman John Carlson said. "That's just based on the fact that guys get injured in this sport and guys play through injuries in this sport and you try to find the in between."
Ovechkin usually finds it. He attributed missing 11 games last season partly to not having a normal offseason to train before the season began Jan. 13, and a compacted schedule with fewer rest days.
"It was a short season. It was lots of games," Ovechkin said. "All the things were happening because of that, because sometimes your body doesn't recover well, and a little injury became difficult to recover [from]."
After Ovechkin had a more normal offseason to work with personal trainer Pavel Burlachenko, he arrived at training camp in excellent condition and focused on having a rebound season.
"I'm expecting him to be the player that he is," Washington coach Peter Laviolette said. "Every time he goes out on the ice, he tries to play the game hard. He tries to make a difference offensively. So I'm looking for that for him."
Prior to last season, Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL goals leader in three straight seasons, increasing his record total to nine. That included 2019-20, when he tied David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins for the NHL lead with 48 goals in 68 games before the regular season was cut short by the pandemic.
With his next goal, Ovechkin will tie Marcel Dionne (731) for fifth on the NHL goals list. He's 11 behind Brett Hull (741) for fourth, 36 behind Jaromir Jagr (766) for third and 71 behind Gordie Howe (801) for second.
"First of all, he's definitely got a legitimate shot," Gretzky said. "He's got a great opportunity. He's on a good team. He plays with really good centermen. He enjoys playing and loves playing in Washington. So he just has to be himself, go out there and play hard like he does every night."
Since acknowledging that chasing Gretzky's record factored into the length of his new contract, Ovechkin has tried to downplay expectations about it. But his teammates are thrilled about the possibility of being part of his ride toward history.
"It's so cool," linemate Tom Wilson said. "To watch it every day, to have a front-row seat to pass him the puck once in a while, it's been one of the coolest things just to watch his journey since I've been here. And it seems like every couple of weeks he's breaking a record. So I know that it's going to be fun."
Ovechkin's priority is to help the Capitals add another Stanley Cup championship to the one they won in 2018. But the focus on his record chase will intensify with each goal he scores.
"I've said this before: I think if anyone can do it, it's him," said Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, who will begin the season on long-term injured reserve with a left hip injury. "That's the kind of hunger he's got, and that's the kind of goal-scorer he is."
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