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Ovechkin stays at right wing ... for now

by Ben Raby /

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals will have a different look tonight against the Montreal Canadiens, as Wojtek Wolski joins Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin on the top line.

Wolski is expected to play on his natural side at left wing, meaning Ovechkin will continue to play on the right side. Ovechkin has played left wing throughout his NHL career, but coach Adam Oates moved Ovechkin to the right side in training camp and he's played there in the first two games of the season.

"I think when you play all the time on the left side, and you try right away on the right side, you just have to realize it and give it some time," said Ovechkin, who has been held to one assist through two games.

"If I score one goal or two goals, like, I'm going to feel much more comfortable and it's going to take pressure off of my shoulders."

Oates explained in training camp that the decision to move Ovechkin to the right side -- not unlike what the New Jersey Devils did last year with Ilya Kovalchuk -- was in an effort to expand his game and limit his increasingly predictable tendencies from the left side.

"We're going to use him every way we can," Oates said before the start of the season. "He's a force in this League, he's very important to us and I want to make sure that he knows that I'm going to do my best to let him be successful."

For years, Ovechkin made a living by gaining an opponent's blue line, cutting to the middle and wiring a shot from atop the left faceoff circle (often while using a defenseman as a screen).

In recent seasons though, opponents caught on and adjusted and defended Ovechkin accordingly.

"It's a different view now," Canadiens defenseman Josh Georges said of Ovechkin's new position. "He's coming down now from his strong side. When he plays on the left side he does a good job of getting to the middle of the ice and getting that shot. … He can kind of shoot it from any position and it's something that we have to be aware of. But now that he's coming down on the other side, he's a fast skater, a strong guy and we have to make sure that we're in his face no matter what.

"We'll take it in stride. Good players find open ice; they find the room no matter what side of the ice they're on. So we're going to have to rely on a five-man unit to play against him and his line."

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