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Ovechkin's visit to Vancouver creates a buzz

Friday, 12.18.2009 / 5:00 PM / Ice Age

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

Alex Ovechkin's visit to Vancouver for Friday night's game against the Canucks created quite the buzz in the city, where Ovechkin signed autographs for fans and generated plenty of comments from the Canucks about "The Great 8's" scoring ability and how to stop him.

Canucks defenseman Sami Salo even admitted to Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun that his 6-year-old son is a big Ovechkin fan.

"He's the best player in the world, according to my son," the senior Salo said. "He talks about Ovechkin. When we play our little hockey games, he always says: 'Ovechkin scores!'"

"Maybe when I'm retired I'll buy him an Ovechkin jersey," dad said. "He doesn't have to wear mine, but I'm not going to buy him an Ovechkin jersey as long as I'm playing for the Canucks."

Good career move to be sure.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault also is a big fan of Ovechkin.

"I love the enthusiasm he brings to the game," Vigneault told reporters. "The compete level. I don't mind the fact he plays with an edge and has a little dirtiness in him. If I were his coach, I'd like all those aspects about him. He's a great player who's emotionally involved in every shift of every game, and that's what you want from your players."

All part of Ovi being Ovi, according to Ovi.

"It's good stuff for me," Ovechkin told MacIntyre Thursday. "People going to recognize me, going to shake my hand and have me sign stuff. It's easy. I just concentrate on my game, not about being the face of the NHL and some cover guy. I love attention. I love doing what I'm doing. I love crazy stuff. But my job is to play hockey."

Which he obviously does quite well. But as MacIntyre pointed out, Ovi's supporting cast now has helped turn Washington into one of the League's elite teams. No doubt with Alexander Semin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, an emerging Tomas Fleischmann and Brooks Laich playing solid hockey.

So, how do you stop him?

"When he's on, it's a huge challenge," Henrik Sedin admitted. "He's the best player in the game right now. They're the best offensive team in the League and they have a lot of threats on the ice."

"I've watched bits and pieces of Ovechkin and he's obviously a very skilled player with a lot of speed and he plays with an edge," Ryan Kesler said.

"Ovechkin is obviously the best player in the League and we have to play him like we play all the other elite players ... take away time and space and finish checks on him when you can," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "He's a pretty complete player. He'll finish his checks on you. He'll shoot from all over the place and he'll attack you one-on-one. He can beat you in different ways and that's something we're aware of."

Well Said I -- "You just don't let yourself buy into it. The best players in the world, they play entire seasons. They don't play 26 of 30 games with their team; that's not even half our schedule. You get to Game 82 and we have a playoff berth, and we start competing for the ultimate prize, even then I'm not going to believe. ... If the season ends and it ends with a win, then maybe you can start believing it."

-- Sabres goalie Ryan Miller takes a wait-and-see approach on his season.

Sid and the Cup -- Sidney Crosby has a new book out, "My Day with the Stanley Cup."

The book is primarily photos of Crosby's visit to Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia this summer, with the images taken by Brad McCaughan. Crosby wrote the text. The book documents Crosby's two days with the Cup, which was a sensation in Cole Harbour.

Even better, all author royalties and a portion of the publisher's receipts will go to the fledgling Sidney Crosby Foundation, which will benefit various charitable causes. The book sells for $24.87 and will be available through Fenn Publishing, www.hbfenn.com.

'Read my lips, no impasse' -- Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell doesn't speak in riddles, so when he says talk on a new contract with Ilya Kovalchuk is not at an impasse, you believe him.

And when Waddell says he hasn't started making calls about a trade of the superstar winger, you take that to the bank as well.

"[Kovalchuk's agent] Jay [Grossman] is actually coming in here [Saturday] and we'll meet again," Waddell told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We will continue our talks. They have been really positive. I have not seen a sign yet that we aren't going to be able to get this deal done."

The Russian paper Sovetsky Sport reported that contract talks had stalled and that Waddell had talked trade for Kovalchuk.

Nope, says Waddell.

"At this point I can honestly say that I haven’t talked to one team about a trade," he said. "Why even start that because our goal is to get this player signed."

But Waddell knows that with unrestricted free agency upcoming for Kovalchuk after the season, he may have to make a hard decision should talks not result in an agreement.

"When you are doing a deal of this magnitude, it’s not a player signing. It’s a partnership," he said. "You are going to line up with someone for multiple, multiple years, it’s got to be a fit -- for both parties.

"After you get done with all the other aspects of the deal, the financial aspect is the biggest decision that has to be made," Waddell said. "It’s not just Kovy’s [salary] number, it’s how we keep this team together."

'I want to rock and roll all night' -- Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet … will keep the Pittsburgh Penguins coaching staff from seeing KISS.

Last Sunday, bad weather forced the cancellation of the Penguins' annual holiday party, but no such thing could happen to the coaches, who were bound and determined to see KISS.

The coaches made it to Mellon Arena for the concert, but sans  face paint as assistant Tony Granto told reporters they opted for a more low-key approach.

Not what he signed up for -- Mike Cammalleri came to Montreal as a well paid free agent this summer, but he also came to experience the heritage and craziness of playing in a hockey hotbed like Montreal.

Through 36 games, the Canadiens are a very mediocre 15-18-3 and sliding.

"Moral victories suck in this business," Cammalleri told Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette after Thursday's 3-1 home loss to the Minnesota Wild. "I'm not going to sugar-coat it.

"This is a results-driven business. All our fans and all the people who care so much about this team want to see it win. And so do we."

Pavelski gets the once over
-- Brian Burke watched the San Jose Sharks thump the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night, which may have interested him as the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. But Burke was wearing his Team USA GM hat, so he wasn't checking on Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, but rather Joe Pavelski, who could earn a coveted roster spot on Team USA.

"We're down to about five decisions," Burke told David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News.

Pavelski tried to be low-key about having Burke watching.

"Whether they're in-person or not, I'm sure they've watched a lot of hockey in the last couple months," he said. But Sharks coach Todd McLellan talked his player up for all to hear.

"In a short-term tournament, you want people you can trust, and obviously Ron has coached him before," McLellan said, referring to Team USA coach Ron Wilson, who coached Pavelski in San Jose. "If he feels the same way about him as I do, the trust factor is very big."

Lots for B's to see -- The Bruins have talked a lot in recent weeks about Phil Kessel, who was traded to the Maple Leafs this season. But what isn't talked about is what's coming the Bruins' way as a result of the trade, namely two first-round and three second-round picks in the 2010 Entry Draft, then two more first-rounders and two seconds in 2011.

Nice.

As Stephen Harris wrote in the Boston Herald, it's a once-in-a-career opportunity for the Bruins' talent evaluators.

"Yeah, it probably is," Chiarelli agreed. "I know how much our scouts appreciate all these picks in the first two rounds. It motivates them. But now you've got to get them right. That's nine high picks. I don't expect to hit on all of them. I mean, you'd love to do that. But if we can hit on a good amount, say seven, it will really change the future of our franchise."

So, Chiarelli already has gone out to see some junior games this season.

"I wouldn't normally go out to look at players this early," he told Harris. "What I want to do is look at all the (probable) first-rounders, our top 30. I want to get a look now, so when I see them later I can see their level of improvement."

Chiarelli said the Bruins already have looked at some players 10 times.

Well Said II -- "I'd boo, too. Something's not right. We've done the meetings. We've done the talking. It's a good group of guys in here, and I know the guys care. It's just not happening. I don't want to be overly negative. It's game whatever, 33? It's not the end of the world. But we need to start turning things around here pretty quickly before our confidence is shot."

-- Columbus defenseman Mike Commodore

Woulda, shoulda, coulda -- Hindsight being 20-20 and all, the Flyers' Simon Gagne wishes he opted for offseason abdominal surgery rather than trying to play through the problems that have limited him to nine games so far this season.

As you might remember, Gagne was shut down at Team Canada's orientation camp in August, missed a portion of the Flyers' training camp and finally opted for surgery on Nov. 3.

"It was bothering me before training camp," Gagne told Wayne Fish of the Bucks County Courier Times. "And after I had the injury at the tryout camp I wanted to see if I could work through it. I thought I could still play OK and maybe make the Olympic team anyway.

"Looking back, if I said something to the trainer, I could have had the surgery in training camp and maybe missed only the first 10 games of the season or something. But, I tried to work through it, and we tried some things, and it just didn't work out."

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told Fish he didn't question Gagne's decision.

"It's easy for Simon to say that now," Holmgren said. "But, hockey players want to play and sometimes with something that's nagging, perhaps they don't say anything. He's certainly not the first guy that's done that."

Sick and tired -- Heading into play Friday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning were 1-8-1 in their last 10 games, including a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings Thursday night.

Needless to say, there isn't a lot of holiday cheer around the dressing room.

"It's beyond embarrassing, obviously it's been a while since getting a win and frustration is setting in and it's affecting the way we're playing," goaltender Mike Smith told reporters. "We have to stop this, we are right there with a couple of wins here and we're right back in there. But if we don't stop making the same mistakes we've made forever, we don't stand a chance.

"It's part of being a professional hockey player, stuff you learn when you are young. If we continue to make these mistakes, we will not win hockey games, we won't have a chance. We don't have a good enough team to make these mistakes and win. We have good players in here and we can be a good team, but until we figure it out, we're not."

Koivu finding his game -- Our old friend Eris Stephens of the Orange County Register had an interesting piece this week on how Saku Koivu is finally getting used to his new digs after so many years in Montreal.

Stephens wrote that the Ducks signed Koivu, a pro's pro, to be the second-line center, but until recently, he has struggled in the role. But through Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Sharks, Koivu had 3 goals and 4 assists in five games.

"The last two to three weeks has been the best he's played for our hockey club," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "And you can see in the determination he displays and the competitiveness in the faceoff circle and for one-on-one puck battles.

"That's a grit and determination that he's been able to display throughout his career," he said. "And we didn't have that fire earlier for whatever reason. Maybe it's an adjustment period or whatever. But he sure is displaying it now."

All along, Koivu insisted it was just a matter of time before he found the score sheet.

"I felt that at one point I was getting closer and closer to getting some goals and some offensive results," he said. "And when you have chances, you have to believe and be confident that sooner or later it's going to start going in.

"Right now we're getting rewarded and that obviously makes a big difference to our team when we can get secondary scoring and it's not just going to be a couple of guys."

Well Said III -- "We're all responsible ... every one of us. I have to answer to Mr. Checketts and ownership every day. We all have people to answer to. It's a very emotional world, the world of sports. But we who are in charge have to keep our wits and make decisions that are stable. Decisions will get made along the way. We have to do what's right for the club."

-- St. Louis Blues President John Davidson



Quote of the Day

With this being the last year [at the Coliseum], we'd love to try to get back to the dance like we did against Pittsburgh and prove ourselves and go even further. It's an important year.

— New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano