ARLINGTON, Va. - Sergei Fedorov has scored 472 regular-season goals, earned an MVP award and won three Stanley Cups as an NHL forward. Yet there he was at the Washington Capitals' practice Thursday, putting in work as a defenceman.
A late-career position switch for the 38-year-old? Not quite. More like a bit of an insurance policy for the Capitals, who perhaps could carry one fewer true defenceman on the roster if they feel comfortable using Fedorov on the blue-line in a pinch.
"If you've got a guy that can go up and back, then that gives you a little more flexibility on the decisions you're going to make," coach Bruce Boudreau said.
"He's lasted in this league all these years because he's extremely smart. He can handle the puck. He sees the ice. Everybody's looking now for those really good puck-moving defencemen because the game is about moving the puck and scoring goals and he's a guy that can do it as well as anybody."
Defence isn't entirely new for Fedorov. He spent a bit of time there with each of his three previous NHL teams - Detroit, Anaheim and Columbus. Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman even paired the Russian with Hall of Fame defenceman Larry Murphy during one post-season, Fedorov recalled.
Fedorov is expected to get some more work in by partnering defenceman Jeff Schultz in Friday's exhibition game against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers. They were paired together at practice Thursday.
"We're just flirting with the idea," Fedorov said.
He said the biggest adjustment is the amount of time a defenceman has the puck on his stick.
"You have a few extra seconds. I'm not used to that, because playing forward is much quicker," Fedorov said. "On the D, you've got to be a little more patient with the puck, which is all right. I mean, I like to have the puck on my stick."
He was one of the trade deadline acquisitions that helped the Capitals end a five-year playoff drought last season, with 13 points in 18 regular-season games after arriving from the Blue Jackets. Fedorov also had five points in the first round of the playoffs.
Now he could be asked to help prevent goals instead of scoring them.
"If Sergei can play defence, I wanted him to get some sort of idea what it was like the way we play. Nothing more than that," Boudreau said. "I was trying to think a little bit outside the box."
Notes: The Capitals sent three defencemen - Sami Lepisto, Grant McNeill and Tyler Sloan - and goaltender Simeon Varlamov to AHL club Hershey on Thursday. Lepisto played in seven games for the Capitals last season. ... The Capitals need to cut at least two more players before the regular season begins Oct. 10. Trying to earn a roster spot is defenceman Karl Alzner, Washington's 2007 first-round draft pick. "Anything can go on," Alzner said. "There's still tons of time, and I've still got to prove myself and be consistent."