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As Ovechkin slumps again, Trotz gives him familiar advice

As Ovechkin slumps again, Trotz gives him familiar advice

After taking a closer look at Alex Ovechkin’s recent struggles, Barry Trotz said he’s come to a couple of conclusions: the Caps’ captain has played solidly without the puck but he also needs to put more pucks on net.     

“We did some stat stuff on him and I thought he’s playing really well,” Trotz said after the morning skate on Tuesday.

“You can tell by the way he’s skating. We do chances for and against—and who’s causing the chances against. When you’re cheating, those are one sided on the wrong side because you’re trying to do something on the other side.”

The coach added: “He hasn’t done that.”

But Ovechkin hasn’t been scoring, either. And that’s becoming an issue for the skidding Caps, who are mired in a rare four-game losing streak and have averaged 2.2 goals per game since returning from the six-day bye week 12 games ago.

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Consider:

-- Ovechkin’s 10-game drought is the longest of his 12-year NHL career.

-- He has two goals in the last 17 games.

-- No. 8’s last 5-on-5 goal came Jan. 26, or 20 games ago.

-- The 31-year-old has just two points in the last nine games, a primary assist vs. Anaheim and a secondary assist on the power play vs. Philly.

-- In the last 14 contests, three times Ovechkin did not record a shot on goal. That’s only happened nine times in his 907 career games. Additionally, he’s currently on pace for 304 shots. He averaged 393 shots per season the previous three years.

Asked what his message to Ovechkin has been, Trotz said he’s told the six-time goal scoring champion that he needs to get back to doing what he does best: hammer more one-timers. And be more accurate with all of his shots.  

“He’s not quite shooting enough of those one-timers when he gets an opportunity,” Trotz said. “They’re just not sitting flat for him right now. And he’s just missing the net a little bit. If he starts shooting a little bit more off that one timer and hitting the net a little bit more they’re going to go in, no question. His work ethic, his skating and all that, it’s all there. It’s just got to happen for him. You can’t get frustrated and cheat in other areas. He’s not doing that, which is a good sign.”

It's similar to the advice Trotz gave Ovechkin two weeks ago when Ovechkin failed to register a shot in two of four games

Ovechkin said he agrees with Trotz’s assessment.

“I just have to shoot the puck more,” Ovechkin said. “That’s the key to success.”

Ovechkin also insisted that he’s not frustrated and hinted that he’s more concerned about his team’s four-game losing streak rather than his personal stats.

“I don’t get frustrated or something,” Ovechkin said. “Right now we have more thoughts about how we have to win a game and bounce back and be in first position.”

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Karl Alzner on the mend, status for second round remains unclear

Karl Alzner on the mend, status for second round remains unclear

Karl Alzner on Tuesday handled his heaviest practice workload since getting hurt, but it remains unclear when the Caps’ defenseman will return to the lineup.

Alzner has been sidelined with an upper body injury since Game 2 against Toronto.

“He’s progressing [and is] day-to-day,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “When the trainers say, 'Go', then he’ll go.”

Alzner took part in contact drills, including penalty kill, signaling the next step in his recovery.

Asked if he anticipates Alzner stepping back into the lineup when he’s healthy, Trotz said: “Possibly. We’re not there yet so I’m gonna be vague to you.”

RELATED: Trotz reveals why Ovechkin missed the second half of practice

Alzner said he felt good after the hour-long practice. Asked if he expects to play right away, he said: “I think so, yeah. I didn’t really think about that...I hope so.”

Alzner, who has appeared in 540 consecutive regular season games, acknowledged that it’s been frustrating to be sidelined given what’s at stake.

“Yeah, not fun,” he said. “It’s very, very frustrating, especially at this point of the year. You can handle it a little more in the regular season, but to watch the guys go to battle and to have the feeling of beating a team, it’s unfortunate to miss that. At the same time, I know that in the long run, it’s the best thing for the team [and] clearly was the right choice.”

Alzner has been replaced in the lineup by Nate Schmidt, who has played well the past four games. In addition to being reliable in his own end, he’s registered a pair of assists. He’s also a team-best +5.  

If and when Alzner is healthy, it’s going to force Trotz and Co. to make a difficult decision. Do you take out Schmidt? Someone else? Or go with seven defensemen?

“He’s done that,” Trotz said about Schmidt putting the coaches in a tough spot. “He’s come in and he’s done a really good job. He’s such a good skater. We played a quick team and he fit in just perfectly with us. I thought he was making a statement, ‘Hey I'm gonna make it tough to take me out of the lineup.”

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Barry Trotz reveals why Alex Ovechkin missed the second half of practice

Barry Trotz reveals why Alex Ovechkin missed the second half of practice

Alex Ovechkin missed the second half of Tuesday’s practice — the Capitals’ first session in preparation for the Penguins — because of an equipment issue.

Prior to exiting the ice, the Caps’ captain came to the bench at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and examined his skate.

“His skate broke,” Coach Barry Trotz said before cracking, “I said, ‘You didn’t have another pair? He goes, ‘I couldn’t find them.’”

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In all seriousness, though, it’s not clear why Ovechkin did not get his skate repaired, as is usual when a blade or holder cracks. 

“I don’t know what happened,” Trotz said. “It was a skate. He came over and there was something hanging off his skate there. I think when he went in the corner, [it] got sliced. He’s fine, as you see. You saw him walking around. He’s fine.”

Added Ovechkin, who appeared to be practicing at full speed during the first 20 or so minutes of practice and looked while walking around afterward: “Yeah, my skate is broke, almost in half. It’s okay.”

Ovechkin scored three goals in the first round as the Caps vanquished the Maple Leafs, 4 games to 2. The right wing ranks ninth on the team average ice time on the team at 19:43.

In addition to Ovechkin’s situation, Lars Eller did not practice. Trotz said the third line center, who has two assists so far in the postseason, took a “maintenance day.” 

Trotz said he expects Eller to practice on Wednesday.

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