Thursday, April 30, 2009

Questions Surround Ovechkin's Health

With all the attention turned on the Capitals' star with a matchup with the Penguins looming, one notable Cap missed practice Thursday, as Alex Ovechkin wasn't out there.

Of course, that started off a firestorm at Kettler, with his coach saying he was "just resting" with another tough series ahead. It also had Russian journalist extrordinare Slava Malamud opining that he thought - without having concrete information or an admission from Ovechkin - he thought the star had a "lower-body injury."

Anyone knows that's followed hockey knows that players are playing with severe injuries this time of year, and it takes a lot to knock a player out of a postseason game. In the past, Capitals players have played with broken ribs, torn ligaments and other ailments, and as Washington fans saw this past series, the Rangers' Chris Drury was playing - and hampered - by a broken right hand that he suffered in a game on April 9th.

Ovechkin already stunned the crowd at the press box once this year by missing a game against Toronto in March with an injury, only the second time in his career he's missed time due to being hurt.

As Malamud pointed out, Ovechkin was certainly hurt at the end of last year's playoffs, as he admitted to him that he was taking painkillers for the last month of the season. Not surprising since he plays a very physical style that just wears a player down that after six months of such a style that he'd be battling something as the physical angle of the game ramps up.

Another observer who was watching a Caps practice in the past few weeks pointed out a tendency in Ovechkin's game that certainly indicated that he was favoring something, and it certainly wasn't a mistaken observation. His game, while still one of the best on the ice, isn't quite as dominant right now, not only because of the extra attention he's getting, but also isn't quite the same.

Certainly Ovechkin will be out there unless it's something major for this stage of the playoffs, but it'll be worth watching his game as speculation mounts that he's not 100 percent.

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