With the Washington Capitals toiling near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, a lot of the focus has been on the play of Alex Ovechkin.
The Caps were 12th in the conference with 21 points in 24 games heading into Tuesday night’s action. Ovechkin has nine goals and 11 assists, relatively low production for a player labelled as one of the best in the world.
When asked about Ovechkin’s play, head coach Adam Oates went to bat for his captain Tuesday.
“We had a little talk this morning,” Oates told reporters. “He’s got so much pressure on him, the world sees it, but they don’t see necessarily the 10 hits, they don’t see necessarily the 14 shots that he takes. They focus on the mistakes and that goes with the territory.”
On the topic of the criticism Ovechkin has been getting, Oates responded: “A little bit. I don’t like it when ex-players talk about players. I think your job is to add color.”
He added the only voice Ovechkin should listen to is his.
“My job is with Alex, and really he should focus on the way I feel about him,” Oates said. “But it is part of the game, when you’re one of the focal points of the league. That’s a fact.”
BRYZGALOV REALITY CHECK
Times are tough for the Philadelphia Flyers, and if you ask Ilya Bryzgalov he’ll tell you the team’s season will come down to Wednesday and Friday’s games against the New Jersey Devils.
Philly is in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with a 12-14-1 record in 27 games. They’re tied with the New York Islanders with 25 points but the Isles have a game in hand. The Flyers were three points behind the eighth-place New York Rangers heading into Tuesday night’s games, but the Rangers had three games in hand. The Devils are in seventh with 29 points.
“You win both games, and you’re tied with them and you have a good chance to continue to battle for the playoffs,” Bryzgalov told the Philadelphia Inquirer Tuesday. “You lose both games, you’re done … You'd be eight points behind.”
It’s a grim dose of reality coming from the goaltender of a team pegged by many to make the playoffs.
“It's not going to depend on you (to make the playoffs), it's going to depend more on other teams than you. That's the importance of these games,” Bryzgalov said.
After this week’s games against the Devils, the Flyers will have just 19 games left in the season.
BRODEUR BACK ON ICE
Martin Brodeur skated Tuesday for the first time since Feb. 24 when he pulled himself out of the lineup with a back injury during a pre-game warmup.
New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters there’s no schedule for the goaltender’s return to the lineup.
“There’s no timetable on that until he’s 100%,” Lamoriello saoid. “It’s part of his rehab to get strength. He’s been off the ice for quite a while now.”
The Devils are 2-5-1 since Brodeur last played Feb. 21.
New Jersey also placed Henrik Tallinder on injured reserve, retroactive to March 7, with a lower-body injury. The defenceman is considered day-to-day after suffering the injury during pre-game warmups March 5.
As a result, the Devils called up centre Harri Pesonen from the AHL’s Albany Devils.
SHARKS TRY BURNS AT WING
Brent Burns returned to the San Jose Sharks lineup Tuesday night partnered with Scott Gomez and James Sheppard.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The Sharks, needing to fill a hole at forward, have converted the offensively-minded defenceman into a third-line winger.
Playing forward is nothing new to Burns. He was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in 2003 as a forward before the team converted him to defence. He also occasionally played up front for Minny.
“There was a time in his career where he was an in-between guy,” Sharks head coach Todd McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News. “Jacques (Lemaire) and the Minnesota Wild used him up front, they used him on the back. We’ll tap into that a little bit. We’ll see where it goes and what can come out of it.”
Burns has been out of the Sharks lineup since Feb. 23 with a lower-body injury.
The New York Islanders could be without one of their top scorers for 7-10 days.
Michael Grabner suffered an upper-body injury during Sunday’s 6-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Newsday reports it’s a shoulder injury.
Grabner is third on the team in goals with 10 and also has three assists in 26 games.
Despite only playing 30 games in SM-Liiga during the lockout, Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson won the scoring race among defenceman with 34 points for Jokerit HC ... Stars forward Ray Whitney returned to the lineup Tuesday against the Nashville Predators. Whitney missed the previous 16 games with a broken foot ... The Chicago Blackhawks called up forward Jimmy Hayes from the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs and sent down defenceman Steve Montador ... The Columbus Blue Jackets activated forward Brandon Dubinsky off injured reserve. The team also acquired Matthew Ford from the Flyers in exchange for future considerations. Ford will report to the AHL’s Springfield Falcons ... The Detroit Red Wings called up forward Gustav Nyquist, the AHL’s leading scorer heading into Tuesday, from the Grand Rapids Griffins while sending down Tomas Tatar ... The Phoenix Coyotes called up defenceman Chris Summers from the AHL’s Portland Pirates ... The Capitals recalled defenceman Cameron Schilling from the AHL’s Hersey Bears.