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Ovechkin altering game, starting to see results

by Dan Rosen
NEWARK, N.J. -- If Alex Ovechkin scores Friday at Prudential Center, it'll be the first time all season that he'll have goals in back-to-back games. And if Ovechkin can get at least one against the Devils, it'll also be his third goal in the last four games and fourth in the last seven.

Baby steps for sure, but Ovechkin's smallish production so far this season suggests any steps are a positive.

"The last probably 10 games I feel very good," said Ovechkin, whose 11 goals this season puts him a tie for 46th place with 26 other players. "I feel myself, pretty comfortable and pretty good."

Ovechkin played only 15:05 in Tuesday's 4-1 win over Nashville, but it was one of his most complete games of the season.

Alex Ovechkin
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 23
SOG: 124 | +/-: -8
On his second shift of the game he was credited with two hits on Colin Wilson that essentially set the tone for the Capitals. He also laid out Nick Spaling, but didn't get credit for that hit. Two shifts later he got a step on Jonathan Blum at the left wing wall and cut in to beat Anders Lindback to give Washington a 1-0 lead.

Ovechkin finished the night with the goal on seven shots, as well as three hits on only 21 shifts. He was held off the ice for a large portion of the second period with the Capitals having to kill off three penalties, including a minor for too many men on the ice that Ovechkin served.

It was the type of performance, minus the ice time, that the Capitals need Ovechkin to continue to deliver. It was the type of performance he's delivered only a handful of times this season.

"His game, when he's forechecking and taking the body, he sets the tone for our team," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "He gets in on top of them, takes the body and creates scoring chances. Everybody wants to score more goals, but it's a tight league and you have to bide your time."

If Ovechkin was simply biding his time to score more goals that would be one thing, but there is no patience in his game.


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What there is instead is change.

Ovechkin admitted Friday morning that he has finally come to the realization that he had better alter some of the things he used to do that worked, such as taking the puck from the top of the left circle into the middle and shooting through a defenseman, sometimes even two.

The defensemen are standing him up now, so Ovechkin has changed his attack.

Instead of cutting to the middle, he'll stop at the half-wall and wait for trailers. If he doesn't want to stop or if he feels the trailers are covered, he'll try to take the puck wide and deep to create offense from below the goal line.

He's not doing this all the time, but it's worked enough for him to realize there are different ways for him to score.

For instance, he went wide on Blum and then cut to the middle to score against Nashville. In a game at Ottawa on Dec. 7, Ovechkin carried the puck all the way in from the defensive zone, down the left wing wall, past Daniel Alfredsson, behind the net and up to the right wing half-wall. He then stopped on a dime to elude defenseman Erik Karlsson and took several strides into the circle before snapping a shot past Craig Anderson.

"Sometimes I have the speed, I go to the zone and I realize there are three guys around me," Ovechkin said. "So, if I go to the middle I can get hit and lose the puck. It's a game situation that you have to realize and you have to think.

"I had to change and do my stuff and my job better than I did."

But the Capitals need Ovechkin to deliver more from his changes. They need him to deliver consistently in order to pull back up in the standings where so many believe they belong.

That's why another goal against the Devils would be huge. Not only would it suggest that Ovechkin isn't just on a mini-run, but lately when he scores, or at least helps someone else score, the Capitals win.

When he doesn't, they lose.

"I don't think it's more creative," Ovechkin said. "I feel like I am just getting back to the normal spot where I used to be."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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