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Surprise Skater Joins Kids on Day Two

League MVP Ovechkin takes a Monday twirl with Caps rookies

Monday, 09.15.2008 / 4:57 PM / Features
By Mike Vogel  - WashingtonCaps.com Senior Writer
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Surprise Skater Joins Kids on Day Two
Day two of Washington Capitals rookie camp was noteworthy for the presence of an interloper, namely Caps star left wing Alex Ovechkin. Chomping at the bit to get on the ice, Ovechkin was in full gear on the bench during the first half of the day’s session, a session devoted entirely to testing of the rookies.

After the ice was resurfaced, the kids hit the sheet again, this time for drills and some scrimmaging. Ovechkin wasted no time; he was out there with the kids from start to finish. He took part in the drills and skated a regular shift for the scrimmage. At one point, the coaches called the players over to the dry erase board. This gave Brooks Laich an opportunity to call Ovechkin over to the glass.

“Hey Ovie,” teased Laich. “I told you you were a rookie.”

He’s young enough to be one. Ovechkin still has a few days left as a 22-year-old. He turns 23 on Wednesday.

“I just had fun,” said Ovechkin afterwards. “Just got into a couple drills.”

“Doesn’t that say something about the character of a guy?” asked Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, rhetorically. “He’s the one that came to us and asked us if he could go out on the ice. We thought that if he wanted to go out, it was his time, I guess. But I thought it would be quite a thrill for some of these young kids to actually get a pass from Alex. It might not be a bad idea.

“I would be if I was out there,” said Boudreau. “Guys have a tendency not to show that they’re in awe. But I’ll bet you when they go home the first person they call is mom and dad and tell them, ‘I’ll bet you can’t guess who was out on the ice with me today.’”

Like so many of his teammates, his coaches and the fans in the area, Ovechkin has had about all the summer he can take.

 “I miss hockey a lot,” he said. “I can’t wait for the season to start. I’m very excited. We have a great team and we have young guys.

There are three young Russian players in attendance at rookie camp: goaltender Simeon Varlamov, defenseman Viktor Dovgan and forward Dmitry Kugryshev. All three spent Sunday with Ovechkin, and all three departed with Ovie after Monday’s skating session.

“Yeah, they spent all day with me at my house and my mom cooked for everybody,” said Ovechkin of Sunday. “I just try to help the young guys because I remember when I came here [Dainius Zubrus] helped me a lot. I just tried to take care of them.”
 
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Center Anton Gustafsson aggravated a back injury in Sunday’s session and he did not take part in Monday’s testing or the drills and scrimmage that followed. The injury is not thought to be
Anton Gustafsson
serious, and is not expected to keep Gustafsson out for the week.

“We just want to make sure that we know the extent of the injury and the soreness and get it fixed,” said Boudreau. “We don’t anticipate him being with us for at least a year. We want to make sure that he’s fine and he’s right.

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Two days into camp, defenseman Karl Alzner looks as sharp and smooth as ever as he bids to become the first Caps defenseman to jump from junior hockey directly to the NHL without ever stopping in the minors along the way.

“Alzner wants to be a player,” says Boudreau. “He has played at the highest levels you can for when you’re under 20, and he’s been a captain of the [Canadian national junior] team that won the gold medal at the 2008 World Junior Championship]. He knows what it takes to be a leader and he knows what it takes to be in shape. The jury is I wouldn’t say still out. We know he is going to be a fine player. Whether he starts here or he doesn’t start here, we don’t know yet.”

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Francois Bouchard was Washington’s second-round pick (35th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. After finishing among the leading scorers in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in each of the last two seasons, the 20-year-old Bouchard is now preparing for his first season of pro hockey. A veteran of three summer rookie camps and a couple of fall training camps, Bouchard is ready for his first full season as a pro.

‘The last couple of years have helped me in the rookie camp,” he said. “This is going to be my first year as a pro, so it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m ready for the big camp after the rookie camp.”

The Capitals’ organization is significantly deeper now than it was when Bouchard was drafted two summers ago, particularly up front. It could prove to be quite a challenge for a first-year pro to crack the top six in Hershey, let alone make a deep team as a darkhorse in Washington.

“There is a really good team here in Washington and a really good team in Hershey, too,” Bouchard said. “I’m going to have to make my place on the first two lines or whatever the coach wants me to play. I can play everywhere. I’m ready to battle here in Washington, and after that in Hershey.”

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Center Nicklas Backstrom has been off the ice for a couple days now after suffering a sprained ankle last week. Backstrom was walking around with nary a limp today, and could be ready to skate by the time the Caps open regular training camp on Saturday.
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