NEWARK—After Saturday’s loss in Nashville, Caps Coach Barry Trotz acknowledged that Alex Ovechkin was “a little bit off.”
On Monday, Trotz said he thinks Ovechkin needs to ramp up his focus and attention to detail—at the practice rink as well as on game days.
“With Ovi, it’s just bearing down,” Trotz said. “It’s bearing down in practice. It’s bearing down in the games. It’s going the distance on every play. If he just does that, it’ll start coming back.”
He added: “I think he got away from that.”
With six goals in the last 20 games and a total of 27 on the season, Ovechkin, the four-time defending Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner, is tied for eighth in the league—seven goals behind league leader Sidney Crosby.
Ovechkin has also fired fewer shots on goal in recent games.
In 900 career games, he’s had only nine games without a shot on goal. Three of those shot-less efforts have come this month. (He scored against Predators but the goal was overturned because he was offside.)
Over the first 30 games of the season, Ovechkin took 120 shots (4.0 per game, 2nd most). Over the past 31 games, he’s taken 103 shots (3.3 per game, 10th most).
Trotz echoed the sentiments he shared Saturday night when asked about Ovechkin, who is on pace for 36 goals.
“He’ll get very streaky if he gets determined…” Trotz added. “He’s capable of getting 10 goals in the next five games.”
“But,” the veteran coach continued, “you got to start with getting shots.”
NEWARK—Matt Niskanen felt good in his return to practice but stopped short of saying he’ll play against the Rangers on Tuesday night.
“It was good,” said Niskanen, who has been sidelined with a lower body injury. “[But] I’ve got some catching up to do.”
Winger T.J. Oshie (upper body) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (lower body) also returned to practice on Monday at the Devils’ practice rink.
Oshie and Orpik, however, left the hour-long session early. Niskanen made it through the entire practice, increasing the odds that he’ll suit up against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
“Maybe,” Niskanen said, asked if he expects to play. “I don’t know. We’ll see what they say. Today was a good day, so we’ll see how tomorrow goes.”
Niskanen, the team’s most important blueliner, was injured last Wednesday in Philadelphia when he went left leg on left leg with rugged Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas. Niskanen did not finish that game and has not played since.
He skated on his own Saturday in Nashville, though, and ramped things up significantly during Monday's practice.
“It was good to be back with the team today and have a structured practice and not skating by myself,” he said. “My body is feeling better and better, so I’m headed in the right direction.”
Asked if he felt limited in any way, Niskanen said he did not.
“Other than my lungs, no,” he said. “I was trying to push myself to test the injury and trying to get caught up to speed with these guys who have played a couple games since [the injury] happened.”
Coach Barry Trotz acknowledged that Niskanen is the closest of the three to returning but did not rule anyone in—or out—against the Rangers.
“They’re all sorta day-to-day,” Trotz said. “We have a morning skate tomorrow. Everything is trending the right way. We’ll have a better answer tomorrow.”
Trotz indicated that a forward would be recalled from Hershey “just in case.” If Oshie does not play, it’s also possible that Tom Wilson will take his spot on the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Wilson has goals in each of the past two games and practiced on Ovechkin’s line on Monday.
“I know what my job is, I know what my role is,” Wilson said. “I’m going to do anything I can to help the team out. And if that’s playing with those two, I’m going to trying and bring my game to the table and complement them as best I can, and hopefully we pick up some chemistry.”
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