Capitals hope Ovechkin returns quickly
ARLINGTON, Va. -- First, Alex Ovechkin was day to day. Then he was week to week.
Now the latest, courtesy coach Bruce Boudreau: "Hopefully it's no more than two weeks."
The league's two-time reigning MVP has the most serious injury of his NHL career, a "upper-body strain" that could test just how good the Washington Capitals can be this season.
Ovechkin did not practice Tuesday, but he spoke to reporters in the locker room. He wore a T-shirt and gym shorts without a visible sign of a bandage or brace -- nothing to indicate which body part is ailing. In hockey, secrecy is the norm when it comes to injuries, especially when the patient is the world's greatest player.
"Sometimes players have injuries," he said. "Every player gets hurt. I'm lucky I don't have nothing broken. It's just ..."
"Something," he continued with a smile. "You think I'm going to tell right now?"
Ovechkin has missed only four games -- just two because of injury -- since coming to the NHL in 2005. Game No. 5 comes Wednesday at New Jersey. He's paced the Capitals with a league-leading 14 goals this season, helping the team to a comfortable early lead in the Southeast Division.
"I think we can pick up the slack," captain Chris Clark said. "We have a really good team and we'll be able to show that to everybody else now. There's been games where he hasn't scored and we've won, but he does take a lot of focus on the ice."
Ovechkin wouldn't rule out returning for Friday's game against Florida, but Boudreau made that sound like a reach.
"It's Ovie. He does things no one else can do," the coach said. "I don't know if it's a viable option or not, but we'll make sure he's healthy when he plays. ... I just know that he's very tolerant to pain. He wants to play so badly. Given those two equations, if anybody can be back sooner, it's him."
Ovechkin says he's not sure when he was injured. Boudreau thinks it happened during a large scrum that started when Ovechkin and Jason Chimera exchanged a bump for a shove in the second period of Sunday's loss to Columbus.
Ovechkin has been a physical player from his first game in the league four years ago. While his style make him more vulnerable to injuries, he's not about to change.
"He's one of those guys that if he didn't play that way, he wouldn't be the player that he is," Clark said. "You can't tell a guy like that to not go out and skate as hard as he can or to check everybody. It's not in his makeup and he wouldn't be as effective, so you have to take the good with the bad with him."
Ovechkin plans to travel with the team while he recovers.
"Take some nachos, take some Coke, and enjoy the game. Hope the guys are going to win," he said. "I don't want to stay at home and watch the game at home. I want to travel and I want to be a part of the team, too."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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