– Washington Capitals
players collectively held their breath Thursday after captain Alex Ovechkin
collided with teammate Mike Knuble
during a fast-paced drill at practice.
Ovechkin stayed down on the ice for two minutes and was looked at by assistant trainer Ben Reese. The Washington captain then skated to the bench where he spent a few more minutes hunched over. He returned to the Caps locker room shortly after and was not made available to the media.
"We were doing a drill and I don't know if I wasn't in the right spot or he wasn't in the right spot, but you've got to have your head up," Knuble said.
"We had the whole ice to work with and then we occupied the same space. I happened to see him at the last second but I don't know if he saw me so it's a lot of beef coming together at full speed. When people don't see each other it gets pretty dangerous."
"He's fine. It's just two big guys colliding at full speed… You never like to see it at full speed. There are always collisions in the corner when you're playing five-on-five but when you don't see it coming, something real bad could have happened, but we're lucky." -- Dale Hunter on Alex Ovechkin
Capitals coach Dale Hunter
was quick to downplay the severity of the situation, immediately dismissing the possibility of a head injury.
"He's fine," Hunter said. "It's just two big guys colliding at full speed… You never like to see it at full speed. There are always collisions in the corner when you're playing five-on-five but when you don't see it coming, something real bad could have happened, but we're lucky."
Hunter said that Ovechkin was expected to fly with the team to Winnipeg and play Friday night against the Jets in a huge Southeast Division matchup. Winnipeg is just four points behind Washington, the current holders of the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
"Something real bad could have happened," Hunter said. "They got crossed up in their signals, they were supposed to be in another lane -- I'm still trying to figure out which one -- but it doesn't matter. It happens. I've seen it happen before in practice."
Hunter suggested the collision "just knocks the wind out of you," and that he did not expect Ovechkin to undergo additional medical testing.
Ovechkin is coming off a two-goal game Tuesday against the New York Islanders
and he leads the Caps with 29 goals and 53 points in 66 games this season.
Added Knuble: "There's the whole ice there and we can't run into each other. It's just stupid. It's more annoying than anything that you just did that and that just happened. It's embarrassing and then somebody gets hurt and it's just stupid."
Ovechkin left practice 15 minutes after injured Caps forward Nicklas Backstrom
had been on the ice with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish.
With Backstrom still recovering from a concussion from a hit Jan. 3, it would be hard to blame those around the Capitals who may have feared the worst after Ovechkin and Knuble collided.
"It would be terrible," defenseman Karl Alzner
said of potentially losing Ovechkin to injury. "He's been playing good for us, you can just tell that his spirits are up, he's been having a good time and you could tell that he's feeling like [it's] the end of the year, playoff hockey and everything. So it would hurt quite a bit but hopefully he's OK."