Ovechkin a 'fun challenge'

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:18 PM ET

OTTAWA — Chris Phillips faces the NHL's best every game. Now he's gearing up for the best of the best: Alex Ovechkin.

Phillips and defence partner Anton Volchenkov — who will be a Russian teammate of Ovechkin next week at the Olympics — will try to control the Capitals superstar Thursday at Scotiabank Place.

While Senators coach Cory Clouston wouldn’t wade into the Ovechkin/Sidney Crosby debate, Phillips gives the edge to Ovechkin, but the veteran defenceman doesn’t mean any disrespect toward the Pittsburgh Penguins centre.

“I think (Ovechkin is the best) right now. He’s probably the most dominant and has the most impact night in and night out. He’s a complete player who has a lot of energy and his teammates feed off that. Even when he’s not scoring goals or getting points, he’s bringing energy and making things happen,” said Phillips.

“He’s the most complete player. He makes things happen shooting the puck. When he’s on the ice, things are happening. The puck follows him. There’s a lot of nights where you play against a top line and they make plays, but they’re not the most physical guys. You know you’re not going to get hit when you go back. Not with (Ovechkin). He plays that game and he finishes his checks. It’s a fun challenge.”

Not only did Ovechkin lead the NHL with 42 goals and 86 points heading into Wednesday’s game at Montreal, he also led the Caps with 139 hits.

Made points vs. Sens

Ovechkin has also been successful vs. the Senators. In 18 career games, he has 16 goals and 12 assists — and had a goal and three assists in their last meeting, a 5-2 win on Jan. 7 in Washington.

The Senators don’t expect to shut down the power forward. They just want to control him.

“You can’t just say one guy is going to shut one guy down. You’ve got to do it as a group,” said Clouston. “Individually (Ovechkin is the most dominant). I’m not going to get in the Crosby/Ovechkin argument because they’re different types of players.

“(Ovechkin) is probably the perfect player for his team and Crosby is the perfect type of player for his team. They play a little bit differently and they have different personnel, but they’re the right fit for that team ... I’m not going to say who is better and who is more valuable.”

Regardless of who is better, this game is a good measuring stick for the Senators.

Ottawa is red-hot with 12 wins in 13 games, topped only by the Caps, who had won 15 straight heading into their visit to Montreal and have just looked unstoppable.

“This is a huge test for us. We’re looking forward to it. Both teams are playing well right now and we’re just looking for a good effort. We just want to try to keep this thing going,” said Phillips.

“There’s a saying that you can’t stop (Ovechkin), you can only hope to contain him. He’s going to get his chances. He’s an unbelievable player.”

Phillips offered his game plan for containing Ovechkin:

“It’s not giving him clear shots, breakaways or stuff like that. You want him to get his shots from the outside. We’ll give him that. We just can’t give him second and third chances.”


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