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Capitals reunite Ovechkin, Backstrom at practice

by Dan Rosen

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin might have a familiar center riding shotgun with him when he gets his next chance at scoring his record-breaking goal.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz reunited Washington's captain and leading scorer with Nicklas Backstrom for practice Monday, but offered no guarantees they would play together against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports), when Ovechkin will again try to break Sergei Fedorov's record for the most goals scored in the NHL by a Russian player.

Ovechkin is currently tied with Fedorov with 483 goals. He has played all season with Evgeny Kuznetsov as his center, but he hasn't scored in three straight games and has only five shots on goal in the past two after getting 15 shots against the Red Wings last Tuesday.

"I don't even know if that's how we will be, I just wanted to change it up, change the thought process a little bit," Trotz told the Capitals website after practice Monday. "I think we can be better in some areas. I haven't put [Backstrom], Osh [T.J. Oshie] and Ovi together to see how that looks."

Trotz's goal since Kuznetsov started proving himself as a player in the second half of last season was to make Ovechkin interchangeable with him and Backstrom.

"I want to be able to go back and forth if I don't like the matchups," Trotz said.

However, Trotz and Ovechkin noted the differences between Kuznetsov and Backstrom, which might give a read into why Trotz has kept Ovechkin with Kuznetsov for this long, even though Backstrom missed only the first three games of the season recovering from offseason hip surgery.

Trotz already knows Backstrom and Ovechkin have chemistry.

"For us, it's not going to be hard to get together," Ovechkin told the Capitals website.

He needed to see Kuznetsov and Ovechkin play together early this season to become familiar with each other's games.

"I think [Kuznetsov] likes to play more with the puck, [Backstrom] tries to pass it more," Ovechkin said. "So it's kind of two different style of players."

Although Trotz hesitated to guarantee Ovechkin and Backstrom would play together Wednesday, he did say he would put them together at some point.

"They've scored too many goals together; for me to just ignore that, that would not be smart on my part," Trotz said.

It also wouldn't be smart for Trotz to stay status quo when he doesn't believe he's getting all he can get out of his top players. That's another reason why he made the change for practice Monday.

Trotz said he talked with Ovechkin, Backstrom and Oshie and told them all they could be better than they've been. In particular, he said Ovechkin did not play well enough in Washington's previous game, a 3-2 overtime loss against the Calgary Flames on Saturday. Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet and limited to three shots on goal.

He wondered, however, how much that performance had to do with Ovechkin feeling the pressure to score his record-breaking goal. Trotz said he even asked Ovechkin about that Monday morning.

"It's not really the pressure, he's probably just a little frustrated," Trotz said. "That would probably be a more accurate term, and he can control some of that. I think when he had the 15 shots he thought surely one would go in. Last game was not a good game for Ovi and I think he recognizes that. He wasn't very sharp and wasn't as good, but we weren't very good as a whole. It's probably a little more on the frustrating side versus the other side, but if he plays with determination and jump and fire that you expect Alex to play with, he'll score that goal.

"Everybody knows the next goal is a big deal, but he's going to score probably a couple hundred goals after that goal before he's done, so don't worry about it, it's going to come. And don't force it, just let it happen. He's going to get that record. It's going to happen."


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