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Ovechkin more than proves his worth for Capitals

Wednesday, 01.30.2008 / 9:13 AM / The Hot List

By John Kreiser - Columnist

Alex Ovechkin’s 39 goals not only are the most in the NHL, they represent nearly 27 percent of the Caps’ offense.
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If the Washington Capitals are going to make the playoffs, Alex Ovechkin will have to carry them.

No team relies on one player for more of its offense than the Caps do on Ovechkin, whose team has battled back into the Southeast Division race after a woeful start that cost coach Glen Hanlon his job.

Ovechkin’s 39 goals not only are the most in the NHL, they represent nearly 27 percent of the Caps’ offense, the second-highest percentage in the League. No other Washington forward has more than 12. His 65 points place him among the NHL leaders and mean that he’s been involved in just under 45 percent of Washington’s goals.

For the Capitals to continue their surge, Ovechkin will have to keep producing. In his two-plus NHL seasons, no one has yet found a way to consistently shut him down.

Five up -- Five players who’ve been out-producing expectations:

Mike Ribeiro -- A trip to the All-Star Game was a just reward for Ribeiro, who’s had a breakout season for Dallas. He’s averaged more than a point a game and given the Stars a lot of offense from an unexpected source.

Tim Thomas -- The winning goalie in the All-Star Game is the biggest reason the Bruins are alive and well in the playoff race. Thomas doesn’t pile up shutouts, but his save percentage has been among the NHL’s best all season despite playing for a team that usually gets outshot.

John Kreiser
John Kreiser, who has covered the NHL since 1975, is's man behind the numbers. His column appears each weekend on
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Pascal Leclaire -- Columbus is in the first playoff race in franchise history, and Leclaire is the biggest reason why. The former first-rounder is finally playing like one. He leads the NHL with eight shutouts and has given the Blue Jackets the most consistent goaltending they’ve ever had.

Brad Boyes -- The Blues are getting much more than they thought they would when they landed Boyes from Boston last February. He’s on pace for his first 40-goal season.

Sergei Gonchar -- It’s not unusual for Gonchar to be on pace for 60-plus points — he’s been one of the NHL’s best offensive defensemen for years. What’s made Gonchar more valuable to the Pittsburgh Penguins this season has been his improved play in his own zone. He was plus-2 at the All-Star break after going a combined minus-18 in his first two seasons as a Penguin.

Five down -- Five players who’ve got to step up:

Jaromir Jagr -- The Rangers haven’t scored anywhere near as much as was expected after making a pair of big off-season signings. One reason has been a surprising lack of production from Jagr, who been scoring more but is only on pace for about 75 points. The Rangers need a lot more from their captain.

Jordan Staal -- The Staal brother who wasn’t part of All-Star Weekend has to step up and provide some of the offense the Pittsburgh Penguins are missing due to Sidney Crosby’s injury. The second-year center has just six goals after 50 games this season; he had 16 at the same point in 2006-07, on the way to a 29-goal rookie season.

Jason Blake -- It’s been a tough season for Blake, whose goal Tuesday night was only his 10th of the season — after a 40-goal season for the Islanders in 2006-07. For Toronto to make the playoffs, Blake has to double that total over the last 30 games.

Nikolai Khabibulin -- Khabibulin’s 0-6-1 slump has been a key reason that the Hawks have dropped back in the playoff race after a good start. Coach Denis Savard says he plans to go back to his No. 1 netminder after using Patrick Lalime for several games. Khabibulin has to revert to his early season form for Chicago to have any hope of making the playoffs.

Wojtek Wolski -- Colorado’s front line has been decimated by injuries and illness. The Avs need more from Wolski than the one goal in 11 games he produced before the All-Star break.

Injuries and notes -- Teemu Selanne is going to be a Duck again. The Finnish forward signed a deal for the rest of the season and is traveling with the team on its current road trip. The 37-year-old right wing had 48 goals and 94 points last season, becoming the oldest player in NHL history to break the 45-goal mark.


Out -- Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, the NHL’s scoring leader at the All-Star break, left Thursday’s game against the Islanders after two periods with a hip injury and did not return. The Senators can’t afford to be without Alfredsson for long, especially not with Dany Heatley (separated shoulder) nowhere close to returning. … Vancouver defenseman Willie Mitchell is sidelined with a fractured vertebra in his back. Mitchell, who missed Vancouver’s last three games before the break, won’t accompany the team when it leaves Wednesday on a four-game road trip. He said he first hurt his back when he was checked during a game against Calgary after Christmas, but played nine more games before the pain made him sit. … Toronto had a painful last few days before the All-Star break, losing Alexei Ponikarovsky for six weeks with a shoulder injury and Alex Steen for at least another week, also with an injured shoulder. Another Leaf, rookie Darryl Boyce, separated his left shoulder in his NHL debut during Toronto’s last game before the break and is out indefinitely.

Still out -- Pittsburgh forward Tyler Kennedy is still sidelined with mononucleosis, the same ailment that forced him to miss the YoungStars game during All-Star Weekend. … Philadelphia forward Joffrey Lupul skated with the team Monday, the first time he’s been able to do so since bruising his spinal cord earlier this month. He’s not likely to return for at least another couple of weeks. … Buffalo forward Maxim Afinogenov has missed the last 10 games and teammate Tim Connolly has been out for seven with groin injuries. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff says Afinogenov has been battling a slight tear in his groin and Connolly also has a bone spur in his hip that will probably require post-season surgery. Neither has a definite return date. … Boston forward Glen Murray missed his 16th consecutive game on Tuesday due to a hip flexor injury. He’s still at least a week or two away from returning. Teammate P.J. Axelsson (bruised foot) is also skating but not ready to return. He’s been out since Jan. 10. … Dallas lists All-Star defenseman Sergei Zubov as “week to week” due to a sore foot and groin. He’s skipping the Stars’ three-game trip to Western Canada this week. … Colorado defenseman Kurt Sauer, out for 26 games with a neck injury and post-concussion syndrome, is skating but not cleared for contract. Forward Paul Stastny, who underwent an appendectomy on Jan. 17, is about ready to start skating again. … Chicago rookie Jonathan Toews still hasn’t gotten the OK to start skating again as he works to come back from the knee injury he suffered on Jan. 1. He may be off skates for another week. … Washington defenseman Brian Pothier missed the Caps’ last eight games before the break due to a concussion. Captain Chris Clark missed Thursday’s win against Toronto with persistent groin problems; he’s played only once since late November due to the injury.


Returning -- Florida hopes to get center Jozef Stumpel back on Wednesday; he’s been out for almost three weeks with a shoulder injury. … Nashville got center Radek Bonk (arm injury) back on Wednesday after he missed three games. Another center, David Legwand (ankle), could be back Thursday after going down on Jan. 21. … Minnesota forward Mark Parrish, who missed the Wild’s last two games before the break with a bruised foot, should be back in the lineup on Wednesday. … Detroit center Henrik Zetterberg, who missed the Wings last two games and the All-Star Game due to back problems, could be back as soon as Wednesday. … Tampa Bay defenseman Dan Boyle returned to the lineup on Thursday for the first time since undergoing wrist surgery in November — and scored two goals.

The week ahead -- With the All-Star break done and gone, the schedule heats up again for a few days — only two teams, the Rangers and Canadiens play on Super Bowl Sunday.

Games to watch:

Anaheim at Minnesota (Jan. 30) — The Ducks begin a marathon road trip with a visit to the Xcel Energy Center to face the team they eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last spring.

Montreal at Washington (Jan. 31) — The Caps finish off an odd four-game stretch in which they played Toronto home-and-home right before the All-Star break and Montreal home-and-home when play resumed.

New York Rangers at New Jersey (Feb. 1) — The Rangers will try to make in five wins in as many tries against their suburban rivals when they visit the Prudential Center.

Dallas at Calgary (Feb. 2) — The Stars complete a three-game trip to Western Canada, after which they play only 11 more road games this season.

Ottawa at Montreal (Feb. 5) — The Canadiens are edging closer to the Senators in the Northeast Division race.

The week ahead — Southern California hockey fans will have to settle for watching their teams on TV for the next couple of weeks. Both teams play their first eight games after the break on the road.

The L.A. Kings are starting the rest of their season on the east coast after the all-star break.

Tough stretch ahead:

Anaheim Ducks The defending Stanley Cup champs visit the Midwest before heading East as they play their first eight games after the break away from home.

Los Angeles Kings The Kings head right for the East coast to begin play after the break. Like the Ducks, their first eight games are away from home.

Colorado Avalanche The Avs play four games in six days, sandwiching home games with Chicago and Phoenix around a Friday-Saturday visit to Detroit and St. Louis.

Easy stretch ahead:

New Jersey Devils The Devils play three games in four days — but all three are at home.

Edmonton Oilers The Oilers began a four-game homestand on Tuesday, don’t leave Alberta until Valentine’s Day and don’t play on consecutive nights all month.

Minnesota Wild The Wild get to ease back into the schedule, with just three games (two at home) in eight days.


Quote of the Day

[Stamkos] is a great teammate and a great leader, that's why he's got the 'C'. He brings that tremendous work ethic to the rink and he's one of the top players in the game. I know if I put the passes where they are supposed to be, there's a very good chance he's going to put it in the back of the net.

— Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin on linemate Steven Samkos
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