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Ovechkin feeling like himself again

Friday, 11.14.2008 / 12:01 PM / NHL Insider

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Alex Ovechkin wants to set the record straight.

While much was made of his recent nine game goal-less streak --  the longest drought of his NHL career -- Ovechkin remained extremely active and continued to generate quality scoring chances. He averaged 4.2 shots and topped over 20 shifts and 21 minutes each game over that nine-game stretch. He also led the team with 42 hits through 13 games.

"I just push myself to work hard," Ovechkin said. "Even though I don't score, I still have lots of shots. I still have hits. I still have a moment to score goals.
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But we just didn't score goals. And this is the reason why I think we have a slow start. And I think we don't have a slow start, we have a nice start, but we didn't score.

"Right now I feel great," Ovechkin said. "I feel free right now, and I'm enjoying my time again. I just think about the game and I think about the team, and I think about what I have to do better.

Still, Ovechkin had plenty on his mind. His 83-year-old grandfather had become ill in Russia. The illness reached the point where Ovechkin returned to Russia for six days to visit with his maternal grandfather, Nikolay Kabayev.

"Yes, it was a hard time for me and I'm always thinking what's going on over there," he said. "But right now it's done and I know it's fine. I know he's probably better. But it's life. And I tell myself you can do nothing, just pray for him. But you can do nothing right now."

Now back, Ovechkin has sported a renewed vigor. After starting the season 5-4-2, the Capitals have strung together four straight wins heading into a home-and-home series with the New Jersey Devils, starting Friday in Washington (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-CA, RIS).

Ovechkin appears to be back to his usually bubbly self over the last two games, posting a combined 2 goals, 3 assists and five hits in victories over Tampa Bay and Carolina. He's also determined to push himself even harder to regain the confidence that earned him the Hart, Maurice Richard, Lester B. Pearson and Art Ross trophies last season.

"I don't know what was happening when I wasn't scoring," Ovechkin said. "Maybe it was being double-teamed, but I told you, I still have a great chance to score goals and that's more important. It happens sometimes. You have some periods in the season (where) you can score, you can make some points. You just start thinking about, 'What do I have to do to get better? Do I have to do something special?' You just concentrate about your personal game. But it's just a couple games."

Washington coach Bruce Boudreau had Ovechkin on a line with white-hot Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom Wednesday, and the trio played a part in all five goals in a 5-1 victory against the Hurricanes.

Semin had 2 goals and 3 assists, Backstrom had 1 goal and 3 assists and Ovechkin chipped in with 1 goal and 2 assists. Additionally, defenseman Mike Green had 1 goal and 1 assist.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was only the second time since 1987 that an NHL team had 14 or more points in one game with no more than four players responsible. The previous mark was set Oct. 21, 2000, when the Montreal Canadiens beat Carolina, 5-2. In that game, Brian Savage (3-2), Martin Rucinsky (1-4) and Trevor Linden (1-3) totaled 14 points.
 
Semin, Ovechkin, Green and Backstrom rank 1-2-3-4, respectively, on the team in scoring, and all are between 20 and 24 years old.

Ovechkin was glad to see Backstrom score his first goal of the season against Carolina. In 15 games, Backstrom has 1 goal and 9 assists with a plus-7 rating.

"He had a slow start like me," Ovechkin said. "I don't know the reason why. Right now he just wakes up and he makes great passes, makes some points, and I think he'll wake up again."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.


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