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Ovechkin's 'getting closer'

Alex Ovechkin returned to practice this morning and easily had his best skate since suffering that left shoulder strain on Nov. 1. He participated in all of the drills (none involved contact) and, for the first time, took full slap shots.


Coach Bruce Boudreau said he would be surprised if Ovechkin plays tomorrow, but wouldn't rule anything out.

"I'm getting closer," Ovechkin said. "I still need probably couple days."

A few other quick notes from today's optional practice:

*Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom did not skate. Both, however, are expected to play tomorrow.

*Jeff Schultz said he'll be a game-time decision tomorrow. He's missed two games with a mild groin strain.

*Boyd Gordon said he's been cleared and could return to the lineup tomorrow. He's missed 12 games with a strained back. Gordon's return could mean that Mathieu Perreault will be on his way back to Hershey, though Boudreau admitted that it's not a decision he wants to think about, presumably because Perreault has been so impressive.

*Gordon's availability comes at a good time for the Caps, who aren't sure if they'll have David Steckel back in time for tomorrow's game. Steckel's grandmother has passed away and he's traveling home.

*The Caps are in a holding pattern with regard to Michael Nylander and whether he'll accept a loan to Russia. Things are moving in that direction, but he's still considering his options, I'm told. Knowing how meticulous Nylander is, this does not come as a surprise.

I'll have more in tomorrow's paper.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  November 12, 2009; 1:13 PM ET
 
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Comments

man, can't keep up with Tarik...from previous...

I was wandering through NHL.com stats just to assauge my "home" attitude. I certainly don't watch every NHL game - I catch all the Caps games and three or four others a week - but I'm guilty of yelling about penalties, up-and-down goaltending, Mike Green's lazy passes, etc. Why? Because I watch every game. Maybe some very basic numbers bring everything back:

The Caps are seventh-best in (fewest) penalty minutes per game. The lack of fighting this year means that for actual minor penalites taken we fall right in the middle of the pack. Some of them couldn't come at worse times but I think every team has that issue.

The NHL doesn't track save % by team and I'm too lazy to do the math myself. But, the Caps lead the league in scoring and are 3rd (behind SJS and PHI) in average goal diff per game (+.72). Soft goals come and go, the defense can be spotty, but the end result is pretty dang good. We could want a 1.5 GAA number and 5.0 GF number but that is unrealistic. If our team save % is near .900 and the GAA is around 3.0 this team is fine.

That was a blast last night. And, most importantly, I sat up in 413, staring at the clock at the 6-minute mark of the 1st, and thought "this is the chance for this team to un*&(k itself and show that it can come back from two goals down and some bad play." They did.

If that doesn't make you happy, nothing will.

Well done, guys.

Posted by: saintex | November 12, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

sure it was a good game, I enjoyed watching it... but I don't get too excited over a regular season game win unless it's against the pens or the flyers.

and the only stats I pay attention to besides wins and losses is the GA and PK rankings... they need to be in top ten if they wanna go farther in the playoffs this year

Posted by: joek443 | November 12, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

maybe they do not dress ovechkin until we lose, no need bringing a healing shoulder back until necessary

Posted by: sroessle | November 12, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

saintex:
goal diff per game (+.72)

this is why i see no reason to panic or nitpick about individual play at this time of year. everyone knows that the second season is different and this defense is not sufficient to go deep into the playoffs. i've read more than once here that the style of play changes - this is true and it is true for the caps too. they still may not have as good a d as other teams - but they do play much tighter d. i still think the best bet (once nyls comes off the books) is to wait until late jan or feb to see where the team is at (re-evaluate players (the bears too), see what might be availabe at the trade deadline, etc). save some cap space for a time when you'll have a better idea of what the needs really are.

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | November 12, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

joek, the big games are big wins but a lot of folks get riled up over losses to anyone. Wins good, losses bad.

Posted by: saintex | November 12, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm a newer hockey fan but I don't really buy into the "not built" for the playoffs. They are certainly not a lock-down defensive team - we all know that - but they lost Game 7 in the 2nd round to the eventual champions. Would "deep" into the playoffs mean more than 14 games? Had they won Game 7 last year would that have qualified, one more round, win or lose?

Just chucking it out there.

Posted by: saintex | November 12, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

maybe they do not dress ovechkin until we lose, no need bringing a healing shoulder back until necessary

Posted by: sroessle | November 12, 2009 1:29 PM

Not if Ovechkin has something to say about it.

Posted by: Raber | November 12, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

NYLS, GTFO!

Posted by: jamebow | November 12, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Re Nyls (my obsession) -
1. What are his options?
2. What are the salary cap consequences of each, both this year and next?
The concept of a "loan" to a Russian team sounds iffy - could the Russian team decide to return him at any time, at which point his cap hit returns?
Not that I don't trust you guys, but it would be nice to hear what the Caps "capologist" has to say about the options and the resulting cap hits.

Posted by: zmega | November 12, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Asked this earlier but what is the actual trade deadline?

Posted by: newbiecapsfan07 | November 12, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

saint,
IMO, more often than not, successful playoff teams have to focus on defense first, have a hot goalie and be willing to do the dirty work it takes to win. last year the caps surely had a hot goalie. without him, the caps are out in the first round easily.

while the team did play better defense, they didnt do the things a team needs to do in the playoffs to be long term successful. the team didnt clear out the crease to prevent the dirty goals that inevitably win playoff games. they were fortunate that their offensive stars were able to score enought to overcome defensive lapses. nhl playoffs are brutal and teams need to be ready to sacrifice to win. say what you will about crosby, but he knows what it takes to be successful in the playoffs.

there are also typically fewer power play chances in the playoffs. so if you are team who relies on special teams to win games, you may be dissapointed. however, you do need to have enough firepower on the pp to take advantage when the opportunity presents itself.

the critical time for this team will be the month or so leading up to the playoffs. they can't coast in like they did last year. they need to get healthy and start gearing up for playoff hockey in march. that's why i could care less how they play now, so long as they are able to correct things in the spring.

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | November 12, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

14 1 goal games
2 wins, 3 loses in reg
1 win, 3 loses in ot
2 wins, 1 loss in so

the disturbing (and disappointing) part of this is every one of these games could have been a W - and a few outright should have been.

the good news is - every one of these games could have been a W
they are not being outplayed by a large margin in any given game.
there is much to be learned from losing, it is better to learn these lessons in oct, nov and dec than it is in mar and apr - these lessons can be applied and hopefully become habit.
the points from these games are just as important as the ones at the end of the year though.
winning too many games by a large margin could invite bad habits that will not be desirable when the playoffs come.

enjoy the ride - analyze/criticize away - but try to keep in perspective where the team is, what cap space is available and how can it best be utilized. calling for a players head at this point in the season just doesn't seem to be that productive to me.

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | November 12, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

zmega
1- he could accept a loaner to another league (KHL) or accept assignment to hershey. he could refuse either and remain on the caps roster. he could retire i think too.
2 - a loan is like being sent to the minors. caps pay his salary (or work out some split with the new team) but he is off our cap. the russian team cant send him back but the caps can recall him, depending upon what they agree to w/ the other team. if they recall him he's back on the cap.

the loan agreement is probably just for this season. so next year nyls is back on the team but w/out a no movement clause. the caps could send him to the minors or waive him or trade him or he could retire. either way, he's off the cap next year.

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | November 12, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

@dcsortsfan1--in general I agree with you. I am pleased however with the adjustments the team has made so far in the season which will help them come playoff time-aside just from the playoff experience itself. The guys are crashing the net more and getting more goals up close and personal so to speak. As for the defensive end I hope they work on clearing the crease more effectively. They are getting there but sometimes have screened our goalie rather than push the opposing player out. And whether we are physical enough I don't know, but the guys are more physical than last year. So clearly they are working on it.

Posted by: newbiecapsfan07 | November 12, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

@ dcsportsfan - I guess theoretically there could still be a trade to another NHL team (if approved by Nyls). As Nyls mulls over his options, our cap room is gradually reduced, right? Each game he remains on the roster cuts into the cap, I think (the cap savings from moving him is the amount of his unpaid salary for the rest of the year).

Posted by: zmega | November 12, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

@saintex
Did you really post copies of your drivel in three separate topics?
Were you worried that such inspired insight might be overlooked by the casual reader?
Would be a shame to have all that wisdom go to waste.

Posted by: Wiley_One1 | November 12, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Boyd Gordon said he's been cleared and could return to the lineup tomorrow. He's missed 12 games with a strained back. Gordon's return could mean that Mathieu Perreault will be on his way back to Hershey, though Boudreau admitted that it's not a decision he wants to think about, presumably because Perreault has been so impressive.

I thought about it right now and I almost lost my lunch. Let Boyd heal completely, check back on him in April to make sure he has no back pain.

Posted by: opus1m | November 12, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

yeah, he could get traded w/in the nhl in which case he's the other teams problem. but what would we get in return? if he refuses to go to the KHL, the caps could put him through re-entry waivers and the caps would be on the hook for half his salary for the next two years.

each day, not game, he is on the big roster counts towards the cap. there are something like 190 days or so in the nhl season so each day he's on the roster is more salary cap space eaten up.

newbie, i have very few problems with whats going on now. sure it would be great to have not melted down in some of the games, but overall i'm ok with where they are. we all know they need some help defensively, and i expect them to add to the team either through call ups but more likely a deadline deal. as the season wears on and the playoffs approach, they need to be more responsible offensively so turnover's like semin's last night dont happen. this will be BB's biggest challenge since it would appear that the caps will coast into one of the top three seeds. one the one hand, you don't want to have to kill yourself to make the playoffs like two years ago, but you also dont want to mentally shut down like last year.

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | November 12, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

@wiley - I've had some of my posts that roughly coincided with the appearance of new topics get carried over, but not by my action - maybe the blog is programmed to do that automatically. In any case, a bit harsh, no? No one here has all the answers.

Posted by: zmega | November 12, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Wiley_One1, here I was reading through the posts and enjoying them and getting ready to post to Saintex that his/her post was worth repeating, and then I have to read such a disparaging post from you. Does that make you feel big to belittle someone else?

BTW, thanks to all who posted about the Caps hitting/not hitting on a previous thread. Food for thought.

Posted by: dccitizen1 | November 12, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

...calling for a players head at this point in the season just doesn't seem to be that productive to me.

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | November 12, 2009 1:55 PM

Mentioned this last night, but everyone who's called out ends up contributing big (Semin, Clark, Fehr). Call me superstitious, but why fix what's not broken?

In the spirit: Darn it Juice! Why'd you take that stupid penalty and almost cost us the W?

Posted by: Raber | November 12, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Raber:
if that works, then i can think of 23 guys that need to be - cut, sent to hershey, traded, bought out, reduce ice time

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | November 12, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I really hope they find a way to keep Perreault with the club. With the way Laing is playing now, and what Perreault brings, I'm not sure what Gordon offers - unless Steckel is unavailable and Gordon, Laing, and Perreault can all play tomorrow night and Saturday vs. the Devils.

Posted by: writered21 | November 12, 2009 11:39 PM | Report abuse

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