Even though Kovalchuk now plays for a team Washington has struggled to beat all season, one it could very well see in a late playoff round, Ovechkin wanted to wish him well in his adventure from the south to the north.
"Some rumors were saying maybe he come here (to Washington), but that's not happening," Ovechkin said. "I wish him good luck. He's a good friend of mine and a great player. It was a big trade and I'm sure good players are going to Atlanta, too."
Thrashers GM Don Waddell ended all the speculation Thursday night by sending Kovalchuk and defenseman Anssi Salmela to the Devils in exchange for Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier and a 2010 first-round pick. The Devils and Thrashers will also swap second-round picks.
Washington has already completed its season series against New Jersey, going 1-2-1. Kovalchuk has 52 points on 24 goals and 28 assists in 44 career games against the Capitals.
"Kovalchuk is really good and New Jersey is already really good, so they are better," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Ironically enough, Atlanta will play its first game in the post-Kovalchuk era Friday night at Verizon Center against Ovechkin and the Capitals.
"It's going to be a little bit different, of course," forward Nicklas Backstrom said. "He's been a big key for their team and they are fighting for the playoffs, too. They got two Swedes coming to their team (Oduya and Bergfors), so I have to fight against Swedes tomorrow. That'll be fun."
The Capitals, though, won't be feeling sorry for the Thrashers now that their franchise player is working elsewhere. They are going after their 13th consecutive win and the building will undoubtedly be rocking as their red-clad fans welcome them home from a three-game road trip.
"They might be a little bit out of sorts with a big deal happening, but I'm sure our fans will be really into it and really proud of what we're doing, so they will probably let us know that they are happy with us right out of the gate," forward Mike Knuble said. "It's just another game for us."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org