Monday, October 19, 2009

Quite a Display on Tap for Thursday

With the Capitals getting their first extended break of the season before Thursday night's game in Atlanta, it's worth noting that two of the game's brightest stars will be going head-to-head, with both of them scoring goals at record pace.

While Alexander Ovechkin has recorded nine goals in eight games so far - including four in the past two - Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk has also been stellar, notching seven goals in five games, putting him on pace for 114 goals heading into Tuesday night's game against Montreal.

Ovechkin has more points in October (16) than any of his previous four seasons, despite still having six games left to play. Kovalchuk has only reached seven goals in October three times in his career, and this time he's done it in just five games.

The two friends have also been intertwined in the NHL since the lockout and both playing in the Southeast Division against each other several times a season, with both having their public spats with Penguins star Sidney Crosby, brokering a peace between Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin at the 2009 All-Star Game, and of course, being part of the vocal Russian contingent pushing to go to Sochi in 2014.

And, if past history on the ice squaring off against each other is any indication, both stars figure to boost their totals on Thursday.

Ovechkin has more goals (23) and points (49) against the Thrashers than any other team in the league, scoring at a pace of 1.6 per contest vs. Atlanta, including recording nine points in six contests last season.

For his part, Kovalchuk is also at a better than a point-per-game pace against Washington with 50 points in 42 contests, only behind Florida and Carolina in his career, with six points in five games last season vs. the Caps.

Kovalchuk, whose future in Atlanta is still up in the air with unrestricted free agency looming after the season, certainly has been boosted by the arrival of Nik Antropov and Maxim Afinogenov in the off-season, and has played almost as well as he did when he scored 52 goals a couple of seasons back.

However, off-the-ice, Kovalchuk certainly had the upper hand over Ovechin, thanks to scolding Ovechkin for not calling him in this faux public service announcement shown at Philips Arena last year.

All parodies aside, Thursday's game should be a treat for fans, as two snipers playing at the top of their game and look to outdo each other. And, if you can't tune in, the two teams meet again in the same venue a week from Thursday.

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