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News and Notes from Washington's Practice

by Andrew Howard / Los Angeles Kings
Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green spoke to prior to facing the Kings on Saturday. 

An opportunity.

According to Washington's Mike Green, considered by many as an elite defenseman in his fifth season in the NHL, that's all a young defenseman needs to establish himself as premier player.

Green knows from experience.

As the Washington Capitals first round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Green said the biggest difference in his career came when current coach Bruce Boudreau replaced Glen Hanlon on Nov. 22, 2007. With that coaching change, Green said he afforded the opportunity to play a significant amount of time, the beginning of what thus far has been a solid start to his NHL career.

"When you play a lot of minutes you develop and that's what you need as a young player," Green said.

When the Capitals play the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday at STAPLES Center, Green will see two young defensemen on the opposing team in Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson he believes are destined to have great careers.

"I see a bright future for all of them," Green said. "They both skate well and move the puck and see the ice. I know as being a younger defenseman a few years ago, that's probably the hardest part is vision to figure the game out but they've figured it out pretty quickly."

Recently, Doughty and Johnson took another step forward in their careers as each was selected to their country's national team for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. On Wednesday, Doughty was selected to Team Canada, while Johnson was selected to the United States team on Friday.

"They're going to be great players," Green said.

Doughty and Johnson were not the only Kings players who received glowing reports from Green. Center Anze Kopitar and winger Ryan Smyth also drew a great deal of praise from Green.

"Kopitar is just a highly skilled guy that you give him too much room he'll make plays and he'll score goals," Green said.

Through 41 games this season, Kopitar has tallied 39 points on 16 goals and 23 assists, with a plus-2 rating.

Boudreau remembers how effective Kopitar was against the Capitals last season in the teams two meetings, both Kings wins. In the first game on Nov. 20, 2008 at STAPLES Center, Kopitar scored a goal and had a plus-3 rating in the 5-2 Kings win. In the second game on Feb. 5, 2009 at the Verizon Center, Kopitar had two goals and one assist in the Kings 5-4 win.

"We haven't faced him too often," Boudreau said. "We faced him twice last year and he burnt us twice, so what he can do with the puck is he's really good. We've got to be able to eliminate him the same way I'm sure L.A. is talking about eliminating a couple of our guys."

Smyth returned to the Kings lineup on Dec. 26 against the Phoenix Coyotes after missing 15 games with an upper-body injury. In 26 games this season, Smyth has 10 goals and 24 points with a plus-1 rating.

"Ryan Smyth, he's just a hard-working (player)," Green said. "(He) will out-battle you, muscle you, and compete until the death. Just got to make sure I think with Ryan is try to hold him off on the boards. He's very, very good at getting pucks off the boards and making plays."

Sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 24-10-6 and 54 points, the Capitals conclude their West Coast trip against the Kings on Saturday. After falling 5-2 to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday, the Capitals are looking to rebound.

"Anytime we come out West it's definitely a different game for us to play and it's not easy," Green said. "We know that (the Kings are) going to come out strong and we need to meet their push and make sure we push back."

Two-time MVP, Alexander Ovechkin, spoke briefly after the Washington Capitals practice on Friday about being named to the Russian national team for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

One topic of discussion was on Los Angeles Kings forward Alexander Frolov, who was on the Russian national team for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, being left off this year's team.

"It's a tough decision for the coaches and some good players don't make the team," Ovechkin said. "But you know, it is what it is and we can't do nothing about it. I'm happy I'm on the team so it's pretty good."

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