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Alex Ovechkin needs to think outside penalty box

Capitals captain must cut down on infractions, coach Barry Trotz says

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- As Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz promised following a 3-2 overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday, he sat down with captain Alex Ovechkin prior to practice Tuesday to discuss his recent spate of penalties.

Ovechkin has taken five minors over the past three games and a team-leading 11 this season, "unacceptable," according to Trotz.

"Actually, it went well," Trotz said of his talk with Ovechkin. "You know and I know that we have a very straightforward relationship. Alex doesn't hide from anything. He mans up, all that. So it was good. He understands the best way to help the team is to not be in the penalty box. Especially some of the stick penalties and stuff, he can get those out of his game. He knows that. We need him on the ice. He knows that we need him on the ice. That's where he's going to be most productive. 

"So he knows as a leader of our team he can't be putting us down in terms of being a man short as often as he has lately. I know he'll clean it up. He always responds very, very well."

Ovechkin, who leads the Capitals with 12 goals, took responsibility for the penalties and acknowledged it's a part of his game he must clean up.

"Obviously, I have to be on the ice and not in the penalty box," Ovechkin said. "But it's a good thing we talked. It's my mistakes. I just have to handle it and not take those penalties."

Six of Ovechkin's minors have been for slashing, including one against Buffalo's Marcus Foligno on Monday and another against Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman that led to a power-play goal against in the Capitals' 2-1 shootout loss Saturday.

 

"I think the situation last game was just a bad penalty," Ovechkin said. "It was in the neutral zone, a slash on the hands. Of course they're going to call it."

Trotz said the referees have been watching Ovechkin and have cautioned him against the repeated fouls.

"Some of the referees have come by and said, 'Hey Alex. The next time I'm going to call you.' And then you get called," Trotz said. "So they've been very fair in warning him, that type of thing. He'll respond the right way."

After the game Monday, Trotz said he would "harshly" deal with the problem. That Trotz chose to go public with his intention to speak to his captain demonstrated how serious he is about the issue and how important it is to the Capitals, who are tied for sixth in the NHL with 51 minors over their past 13 games.

"But I think one of the things that Alex understands is that to be the captain you have to be the front guy," Trotz said. "You have to man up. It's a big weight to carry the 'C' because you have to be the leader of a hockey team and you have to be the guy, when things aren't going right, you've got to help be part of the solution, not the problem. So he understands that."

Although Trotz hasn't "harshly" punished Ovechkin so far, he said, "If it's going on again, then there's not going to be a lot of power play and playing time. If my message is not getting through, then the only thing I have is really ice time."

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