Alex Ovechkin’s introduction to playing right wing under Adam Oates’ attacking system got off to a bang on Tuesday. And we mean a BANG!
Midway through the first period of a scrimmage game against the Reading Royals of the ECHL – a game the Caps won 8-0 in front of a standing-room crowd at Kettler Capitals Iceplex – Ovechkin and linemate Marcus Johansson crossed paths in the neutral zone and blindsided each another with a thunderous clap.
“I was on the right side and it was something new for me, different angles,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t know whose fault it is, but I didn’t feel good on the ice and my mouth was bleeding. I didn’t know if I lost more teeth or not.”
Both players lay on the ice for several seconds and Ovechkin returned to the dressing room for treatment before returning to the ice to score a goal and assist on another by John Carlson.
“I’m OK, just a cut on my lip,” he said. “I lose my breathing. I didn’t see him and I think his helmet hit my mouth. But then I can’t breathe, I start screaming because I can’t breathe. But after that couple seconds I feel pretty good.”
Johansson appeared to be unscathed by the collision.
“It was nothing special,” he said. “It happens, unfortunately. It's something to laugh about now, I guess.”
At the time of the collision, Oates admitted he cringed.
“Same as everybody else, I’m sure,” when asked what went through his mind. “Make sure everybody ‘s OK. I think that woke everybody up. I guess they’ve got to pay attention.”
How well Ovechkin adapts to playing the right side under a system Oates likens to the one employed by Peter DeBoer and the New Jersey Devils may be one of the most important developments of the Capitals’ training camp.
Ovechkin is coming off a career-low 65 points and on Tuesday he admitted being lost at times, especially in the defensive zone, where he is tempted to go the left side “all the time.”
“To be honest with you, sometimes I just felt lost out there,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t know, it’s my first game and I never played right wing a whole game. But I thought our line played well today and we have two or three days to get better. …I’ll talk to Oatesy about it, but it’s getting better and better every day.”
Given the short time frame before Saturday’s start to the regular season, Oates’ experiment with Ovechkin on the right side is a bold one. But he believes the switch will open up more shooting and passing lanes for his right-handed star.
That was the case on Tuesday when Ovechkin sprinted down the right wing and fed streaking defenseman John Carlson for a tap-in.
“Your reads are a little different.,” Oates said. “It’s an adjustment period. He’s used to playing one way and he just came from overseas.
“I think it’s going to be good for him because look at John Carlson’s goal. He saw it develop. He saw it the whole way and he was off to the races. I want him to have that opportunity to do that.”
The key for Ovechkin and the Capitals is how quickly that happens.
“I think that’ll evolve,” Oats said. “He’ll learn. He’s a smart guy. He’ll learn it very fast.”
Loose pucks: Jay Beagle was the offensive star of Tuesday’s scrimmage with two goals. Ovechkin, Carlson, Matt Hendricks, Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom and Wojtek Wolski also scored for the Caps. Goaltender Braden Holtby played for the Royals and allowed four goals in about 30 minutes of work. … Defenseman Mike Green sat out the scrimmage. Oates said Green was not feeling well but also said the plan was for Green not to play. He declined to elaborate.