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NHL Stadium Series

Kadri ready for Ovechkin challenge

Maple Leafs shutdown forward will try to slow down Capitals captain in Stadium Series

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- If the Maryland winds don't slow down Alex Ovechkin on Saturday, Nazem Kadri certainly is going to try.

Blustery conditions prevented the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs from practicing outdoors at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Friday. Fortunately, the weather forecast calls for significantly calmer conditions when the Capitals and Maple Leafs are scheduled to face off in the elements in the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS, NHLTV). 

When the Maple Leafs walked into the stadium from the team bus for media availability Friday, the howling gusts left Kadri joking with defenseman Jake Gardiner.

"I told [Gardiner] that if he hoists one towards the net, it might just stop in midair and fall to the ground," the Maple Leafs center said. "It's going to be a challenge."

Just like it will be containing Ovechkin, who comes into the game three goals shy of 600 for his NHL career.
Asked by reporters Friday about his chances of reaching that milestone under the lights Saturday, Ovechkin replied, "I don't know if they'll allow me to score right now. We'll see."

Enter Kadri.

Known as the Maple Leafs' best shut-down forward, Kadri has had plenty of practice shadowing Ovechkin, including last spring when Washington eliminated Toronto in six games in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ovechkin had three goals in the series.

Almost 11 months later, Kadri embraces the chance to go head-to-head with Ovechkin again.

"You guys already know I enjoy playing against the best players and Ovi's one of the best," Kadri said. "He's dangerous. It's going to have to be a collective unit to get him off his game.

"I didn't really realize how big he was until I actually played against him. He''s very big, very strong, just a big, big winger. Exactly what you want. Good skater. Kind of got all the utensils and he uses them all pretty well. 

"Being that big and competitive is an advantage for him as well. Being that big, he can be physical and try to push guys around to buy himself more time. Obviously for him that's important because with that shot, he doesn't need much time. When he can be physical and create a little bit of a gap for himself, it works out for him. 

"He's a master."

Kadri is also a fan of the Maple Leafs Stadium Series uniform, which features white jerseys, white pants and white gloves.

"It's sleek," Kari said. "It's almost looks so clean I almost don't want to mess it up or anything. But I know that's probably not going to happen with the way I play."

Kadri admitted his jersey might get ruffled a bit whenever he goes into the corner with Ovechkin.

"When it comes to chirping, he's not too verbal a guy out there," Kadri said. "He usually lets his play do the talking. But every now and then, he'll say something. 

"Hey, it's a game of emotion. We're passionate people."

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