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Up Next at JLA: Washington Capitals

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) tries to get around the Red Wings net with rookie Andreas Athanasiou giving chase last Tuesday. Athanasiou scored the lone goal in the game. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – Jeff Blashill was in a playful mood following last Tuesday’s 1-0 win over the Washington Capitals.

However, the coach’s good nature could easily have been mistaken as relief after the Red Wings survived a serious offensive assault by all-world sniper Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals' captain had 18 shot attempts in the loss, including 15 that were on net, and nine of those came in the third period.

“We had a little plan to tire him out,” Blashill joked, “We thought if he could get 15 (shots) … he’s got ice bags on his arm right now. We’re going to try to come up with a different plan.”

On Wednesday, fans will get their second – and last opportunity this season – to see the best Russian hockey star that’s not won a Stanley Cup when Ovechkin leads the Capitals back to Joe Louis Arena.

It will also be Ovechkin's next shot at passing Sergei Fedorov as the all-time leading Russian-born goal scorer in the National Hockey League. The Red Wings' great, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last week, retired with 483 goals during his career. He scored 400 goals while helping the Red Wings to three Stanley Cup championships.

Though the Wings won the last meeting with the Capitals, they certainly would prefer not to get into a situation where ice bags are necessary.

Despite firing a season-high 38 shots in last Tuesday’s game, the Capitals were shutout by Wings goalie Petr Mrazek. The 15 shots by Ovechkin equaled his career high, which he established during the second game of his sophomore season. In that game he scored twice in a 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, on Oct. 7, 2006.

Ovechkin’s shot output also set a new single-game NHL record. For the first time since the league began tracking shots as a statistic in 1967-68, 15 shots on goal are the most by a player without scoring.

Lat week in Detroit, Ovechkin had a chance to record the milestone goal with his boyhood idol in the building. Fedorov, who finished his career with the Capitals after the 2008-09 season, was at last Tuesday's game, where he was honored for his induction during a pregame ceremony.

The 30-year-old Ovechkin has now gone three straight games without scoring. It's his longest goal drought through 16 games this season. The last time he went four games without a goal was last December.

Twice in the last week, it lseemed Ovechkin had the record. But the last two times he put the puck in the net – Nov. 7 vs. Toronto and Nov. 12 at Philadelphia – the goals were reversed by coach’s challenges, preventing the Capitals’ star from surpassing Fedorov.

“I knew he was going to shoot from everywhere,” Mrazek said of Ovechkin. “You could see it from the beginning of the game. I think he had seven shots in the first period (six actually). I was trying to be focused and be out of the crease every shot that he had.”

The 38 shots was the heaviest workload faced by Mrazek in any of his six career shutouts. In fact, it’s the most saves made in a Red Wings’ shutout victory since Jimmy Howard stopped 41 shots in a 4-0 win at Anaheim, on Dec. 3, 2010.

The Caps' Russian star turned up the heat in the third period, especially during a power play opportunity after Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser picked up a delay-of-game minor penalty when he shot the puck into the stands.

Ovechkin remained on the ice for the entire power play, setting up shop in what has become synonymous for his office – the face-off dot to the left of the crease.

Dylan Larkin got to experience Ovechkin up close at last spring’s World Championship in the Czech Republic. It was there that the Red Wings’ rookie saw the Russian’s extraordinary talents for the first time in person.

“It doesn't seem like he's doing much and then he's right there ripping a shot,” Larkin said. “He had 18 shot attempts (Tuesday), obviously, probably the most dangerous player in the league. His shot's something else."

It was certainly a monumental night for Andreas Athanasiou. The Red Wings' rookie collected his first NHL goal when he scored from an improbably angle.

"I picked up the puck at our own end and it was at the end of my shift, so I was just trying to get it deep," Athanasiou said. "I had some speed and I thought I could take the D wide and I lost it there, but I threw it on net, and it was lucky enough to squeak through.”

PLAYER TO WATCH

Evgeny Kuznetsov
EVGENY KUZNETSOV
Center  - WSH
Goals: 5 | Assists: 12 | Pts: 17
Shots: 29 | +/-: 7
C EVGENY KUZNETSOV – There’s no sophomore slump, so far, for Kuznetsov. The second-year pro, who signed a two-year, $6 million contract in the offseason to remain with the Capitals, leads the club in scoring through 16 games. An electric, offensively skilled player, who can play all three spots on the forward line, he apparently has found a comfort level while playing with Ovechkin and newcomer T.J. Oshie. The line has combined to produce 42 points this season, including 18 goals. On Thursday, the 23-year-old Kuznetsov registered two assists in the Caps’ 5-2 win at Philadelphia. It was his fourth multi-point performance of the season. He ranks first on the team in assists (12) and points (17), is for second in plus-minus rating (+7) and tied for third in goals (5). In four career games against the Red Wings, Kuznutsev has two goals with an even rating and nine shots on goal.

NUMEROLOGY

SEASON SERIES: 1-0-0

2014-15 SEASON SERIES: 1-2-0

ALL-TIME SERIES: 48-42-16-2 (W-L-T-OTL)

WASHINGTON’S 2015-16 RECORD: 11-4-0

TOP SCORERS VS. RED WINGS: Jason Chimera, 7 goals, 15 assists in 46 games.

TOP SCORER VS. WASHINGTON: Pavel Datsyuk, 5 goals, 14 assists in 16 games.

Tickets to this game and all remaining home games at The Joe are currently available for purchase at the JLA box office (313-396-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at DetroitRedWings.com.

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