Greetings to the Dear Readers from Washington, D.C., where the Penguins and Capitals will renew an actual rivalry on this “Rivalry Night” in the NHL…
Usually, the first item would be an update on the lines and pairings, but since there are no real changes, let’s go straight to the good stuff.
OVI ON GENO
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin chimed in on his best frenemy, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, who has gone a career-worst 14 games without a goal.
“To be honest, the last couple of games, he was flying out there,” Ovechkin said after the Capitals’ morning practice in Arlington, Va.
“He controlled the puck well, made good decisions with the puck.
“Of course, he wants to score goals, but…”
Ovechkin has scored 17 goals in 19 games for the Capitals, and last season his fantastic finish – 20 goals in the Capitals’ final 23 games – fueled what became his third MVP season.
He had only scored 82 goals in 182 previous games before this run of 37 goals in 42 contests.
Malkin, since scoring 50 goals in his 2011-12 MVP season, has scored 12 goals in 52 games.
“What I did – I just started working hard,” Ovechkin said Wednesday, though he did not suggest Malkin is doing otherwise.
“Of course, he’s frustrated and started thinking more and more about it, but you just have to relax and forget about it.”
Ovechkin said he is not concerned Malkin’s slump will greatly impact Russia’s bid to win gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics in their native country.
“I think the national team and their club is two different levels, to be honest,” Ovechkin said. “He’s going to have a different role (at the Sochi Games), and he’s going to play with different players. It’s a different system, different ice.”
Ovechkin said part of the solution to his funk, which stretched into a third season before his return to dominance, was to remind himself that he was still the player to win a scoring title and MVPs.
Also, he took a different view of what it means to have success.
“When you score goals, when you make assists, when you’re name is on the scoring list, everybody thinks you’re back,” Ovechkin said. “Sometimes you don’t have you’re great game, but you get points and everybody thinks you play well. Sometimes you have to see the different positions – you didn’t score goals, but you make hard work, make different plays for your teammates.
“It’s more than goals.”
Malkin is fourth in the NHL with 17 assists, second on the Penguins with 20 points.
Ovechkin said has not reached out to Malkin.
The respective first and second overall picks at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Ovechkin and Malkin are not close, though they are on friendlier terms than earlier in their NHL careers.
His advice to Malkin: ignore voices from outside the Penguins organization.
“When I was a little kid, like my first couple of years… I did not know nobody here; I just read the front pages, the news, and I was crazy about it,” Ovechkin said. “Now I don’t care what people say, what the media say. Of course, I read the stuff, but most of the time I read it and I forget it.”
NEWS AND NOTES
>> Marc-Andre Fleury will make his 19th start for the Penguins. He is on pace for 70 starts, which would best his career-best of 67 appearances from the 2011-12 season.
>> Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said injured defenseman Rob Scuderi (broken ankle) is still rehabilitating off the ice “in a non-impact way.” He was injured Oct. 26, and was diagnosed for a 6-8 week recovery. Bylsma said Scuderi was about three weeks into the six weeks.
>> As of Tuesday night, Penguins assistant GM Jason Botterill had nothing doing with the Buffalo Sabres regarding their GM vacancy. The Sabres reportedly have started contacting clubs to ask permission for interviewing targeted candidates.
The TribHKY headlines from Wednesday…
>> Josh Yohe on the Great No. 8’s Comeback: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5100850-74/ovechkin-penguins-goals
>> Columnist Dejan Kovacevic on what Malkin must do for a comeback of his own: http://triblive.com/sports/dejankovacevic/dejancolumns/5100891-74/malkin-shoot-shots#axzz2lDBY7QWH
TV/radio spots for Wednesday…
REMEMBER: This is an 8 p.m. start, so you have time to spare. Get in a workout. Call your mom. Do both, actually.
Be EXCELLENT to each other,