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Away rinks are homes away from home for Ovechkin

by Mike G. Morreale /

Before Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin burst upon the NHL scene, there was Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers.

Kovalchuk, who has scored at least 50 points in each of his six NHL seasons, tied his career-high with 52 goals in 2007-08 despite the Thrashers finishing with just 76 points, the second-fewest in the Eastern Conference.

Kovalchuk also exhibited a fine scoring touch on the road last season, registering 49 points to finish in a three-way tie with Ottawa's Jason Spezza and Boston's Marc Savard as the second-highest scoring performers among Eastern Conference players away from the friendly confines of the home arena.

Ovechkin, who also led the League with 112 points, was claimant to the top spot among road-point producers in the League in 2007-08, with 33 goals and 55 points in 41 games away from the Verizon Center.

Here's a look back at last season's top 10 road-point producers in the Eastern Conference:

1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington -- There wasn't too much more the standout left wing could have done last season after leading his team in just about every offensive category. In addition to ending the season with the most goals and points on the road, he also had 15 multi-point games away from home, including four goals and an assist in an 8-6 victory in Ottawa on Dec. 29. Ovechkin also finished second in the Eastern Conference scoring race for points on home ice (57).

2. Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta -- The two-time NHL All-Star also was a road warrior in 2007-08, collecting 27 goals and 22 assists in 39 road games. Kovalchuk, who had 15 multiple-point games on the road, capped his season by scoring the championship overtime goal for Russia at the World Championships in Quebec City. Kovalchuk holds franchise records with 254 goals and 466 points.

3. Jason Spezza, Ottawa -- One of the more electrifying centers in the League, Spezza matched Kovalchuk in the Eastern Conference with 49 road points. His best night away from home was a 2-goal, 2-assist outing in a 4-1 victory in Pittsburgh on Dec. 13. Spezza also finished tied for ninth in scoring on home ice in the East with 43 points. In 322 NHL games spanning five seasons, Spezza has 229 assists and 345 points.

4. Marc Savard, Boston -- Savard, 31, continues to post impressive numbers as one of the League's most dominant playmakers. He has registered at least 30 assists in five straight seasons and finished 2007-08 with a League-leading 40 assists on the road to finish tied for second among Eastern Conference scorers with 49 points in 36 games. His finest showing on the road occurred Oct. 12 in Los Angeles, when he had a goal and four assists in an 8-6 victory over the Kings. Savard was named to his first NHL All-Star Game last season, replacing injured Ottawa forward Dany Heatley, and scored the game-winning goal with 21 seconds remaining in the third period to give the East an 8-7 triumph over the West.

5. Alex Kovalev, Montreal -- It was quite a rebound season for Kovalev, his third full season with the Canadiens. The 35-year-old forward, whose 84 points was the second-best output of his 15-season career, also was a marksman away from Bell Centre in Montreal, posting 28 assists and 46 points on the road. Kovalev, who totaled 47 of his 84 points on the power play, was one of only three Montreal players to perform in all 82 games last season.

6. Tomas Plekanec, Montreal -- Plekanec finished the season with career highs in goals (29), assists (40) and points (69) and finished behind Kovalev among Eastern Conference road scorers with 42 points. He also was effective in the playoffs, posting 4 goals and 9 points in 12 games. His most memorable road performance came Oct. 26, when he had 2 goals and 2 assists, all on the power play, in a 7-4 win in Carolina.

7. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh -- Malkin, who finished first among Eastern Conference players in scoring on home ice, posted 26 assists and 42 points away from Mellon Arena. He had 10 multiple-point games and ended the season averaging 1.02 points per game on the road.

8. Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa --
Alfredsson has scored at least 80 points in four straight seasons and averaged 1.27 points-per-game in 2007-08 (89 points, 70 games). The 35-year-old right wing finished eighth on the road among Eastern Conference scorers with 40 points, including 26 assists. The Ottawa captain, a five-time NHL All-Star, set a career-high with seven points (three goals) in an 8-4 victory in Tampa Bay on Jan. 24.

9. Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay -- Lecavalier collected 39 points in 40 road games last season. He also placed third among Eastern Conference point-producers at home with a 1.29 points-per-game average (53 points, 41 games).

10. Jason Pominville, Buffalo -- The 25-year-old forward set career highs last season in with 53 assists and 80 points while playing all 82 games. He also was first on the team in points scored on the road with 39, and No. 10 among Eastern Conference players. Pominville is developing into a perennial 30-goal scorer in the League. He was a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy as the NHL's most gentlemanly player in 2007-08.

"It's tough to say personally what I want to accomplish because everybody wants to improve in every area of their game,” Pominville told the Sabres' Web site. "I just want to be a better player overall (in 2008-09), a better teammate overall and help out so we can make the playoffs.”
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