-- Maybe there has been a reason for Alex Ovechkin
's offensive struggles after all.
Ovechkin practiced Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington but in a no-contact jersey because the Washington Capitals
captain received a cortisone shot shortly after the team's 1-0 loss Tuesday night to Tampa Bay.
"Yeah, I'm going to be OK," Ovechkin said. "Bruce [Boudreau] just gave me some skating, so no puck handling or nothing. He just told me to be here and relax and be ready for Saturday."
Boudreau said Ovechkin was not allowed to handle the puck for two days after the shot. The team did not practice Wednesday and his participation was limited Thursday. Ovechkin is expected to practice without restriction Friday and play Saturday against the Florida Panthers
at Verizon Center.
Neither Ovechkin nor Boudreau would comment on the specifics of the injury, but the Capitals captain was taking his left hand off his stick during drills and even shot the puck once with only his right hand. Ovechkin has been spotted on television broadcasts rolling his left wrist while sitting at the bench during games at different points this season.
Boudreau said he didn't know how long the injury has been bothering Ovechkin, or if it has affected his play. Ovechkin has 14 goals at the halfway point of the season -- far off the pace for even his worst season of his career (46 in 2006-07).
"I don't know -- it has probably been awhile for him to get a cortisone shot," Boudreau said. "I don't know, I couldn't tell you. We'll find out this weekend maybe if it's worked or what."
Beyond his personal health it was a happy day for Ovechkin. His national pride was on full display while he answered questions about Russia's stunning comeback against Canada in the gold medal game of the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo.
Ovechkin was at a fundraising dinner Wednesday night with baseball legend Cal Ripken, but was able to catch the end of the game and the ensuing celebration.
"I'm pretty happy for the team and for our country. It is a big victory," Ovechkin said. "We won only in 2003 the last championship, but right now we're the No. 1 team in juniors. It is pretty amazing and I'm pretty happy for them.
"It is a good sign. They show emotion -- you can see how they celebrate and they were screaming and laughing. It is a natural thing. It is pretty cool."
Wednesday also marked the one-year anniversary of Ovechkin being named captain of the Capitals. The team celebrated his appointment by winning 17 of the next 18 games, and has compiled a 53-16-13 record in his first 82 as captain.
"His numbers are down, but you can see the joy in his face when we're winning and I think we all notice that," veteran forward Mike Knuble
said. "That is kind of your maturity as you get older and become a captain. It is not about personal success so our team can win a Stanley Cup or attempt to win one. We just want to him to play hard every night. He's a captain by example and he's a captain by his leadership on the ice with the way he plays. He's our best player and he plays hard, and I think our guys respect that."
Added Boudreau: "He's been a good captain. He's always been the leader since I've been here. I don't think a lot change other than the letter being on his jersey. I don't think it has affected him too much."