Ovie on Oilers' minds

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:22 PM ET

EDMONTON — If the Edmonton Oilers can only limit Patric Hornqvist’s damage to two goals and an assist, what hope is there against Alex Ovechkin?

If a simple Swedish kid from Nashville, who can’t even afford a K at the end of his name, lights them up for three points, just how many boxes of red light bulbs will they have to stash behind Jeff Deslauriers to keep up with Washington’s $9 million superstar?

The brilliant Russian, who could buy the whole Swedish alphabet if he felt like it, spells trouble in whatever language the Oilers choose to be worried in.

“He’s the best player in the NHL, the best goal scorer,” said Edmonton defenceman Ladislav Smid. “They can all score goals, their first three lines are really, really good. It’s another big challenge. The last game (against the Predators), we didn’t do a really good job, we have to bounce back.”

And, really, what better opportunity is there to redeem yourself after giving up six goals at home than a nationally-televised game against the highest scoring team in hockey?

With your backup goalie guarding the twine.

Chances like this don’t come along very often.

“The way we played the last couple of nights, we obviously need to have a big game in here,” said Sam Gagner. “We need to get up for this the same way we got up for the games on our road trip - get off to a good start, shut down their key players and come out with a win.

“It’s obviously a great test for us. There are a lot of great players on their team.”

As good as Ovechkin is, the Caps are definitely not a Lee Harvey Oswald offence - one man acting alone. They have any number of players who can elevate their game into Hornqvist’s stratosphere.

While Ovechkin leads the league in points per game, Mike Green leads the league in points by a defenceman, Alexander Semin has overcome the unfortunate mispronunciations to become a household name and Nicklas Backstrom was out-scoring all of them heading into last night’s game in Vancouver.

“They’re a team that wants to come in here, score a bunch of goals and kind of embarrass the teams they’re playing,” said Andrew Cogliano, who recognizes a slim margin for error when he sees one. “It could either go two ways, you could lose the game by eight or win a close one.”

The Oilers had a long team meeting after practice yesterday to discuss their strategy for containing the Caps. We’re not sure what was said, but at the end of it, Patrick O’Sullivan was minus two.

“I wonder who’s going to be playing against (Ovechkin), it’s going to be a tough chore,” said Cogliano. “But, most likely if you shut that line down you’ll win the game, or come close.”

The fear of humiliation can be a powerful motivator and the Oilers usually play pretty well at the point of a bayonet. San Jose’s star-studded lineup needed a freak shorthanded goal at 18:35 of the third period to tie it and a shootout to win it when they came calling last month.

And the Oilers went into Washington and beat the Caps 5-2 in their own building last year on the strength of Erik Cole’s hat trick (or, hat tric, as Hornqvist’s parents would spell it).

So they’re not necessarily sitting ducks here.

“We have a lot of pride, we’re not going to let a guy like Ovechkin come in and dance around and do whatever he wants,” said Cogliano. “Our main focus is obviously to shut him down and their line down ... and worry about ourselves. We have a lot of stuff to take care of in our end and with our game. If we do that, hopefully we’ll have a good night.”

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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