Chris Clark now skates alongside NHL phenom

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

Chris Clark understands his role completely.

Get the puck to Alexander Ovechkin, stand back and watch the fun. He's done it before as a member of the Calgary Flames.

"It's kind of like playing with (Jarome) Iginla," the Washington Capitals winger said.

"You just throw the puck to that side and hope it goes in the net eventually."

Clark, who scored his 11th goal of the season on the powerplay in Thursday's 3-2 loss to Boston, has been on the same line as the flashy Russian rookie for the past month. He said he's often left shaking his head in amazement of Ovechkin's skills.

"He's an unbelievable individual player," Clark said. "One-on-one, he seems to get a shot off or gets around the defenceman more than half the time. It's unreal how explosive he is.

"It's awesome to play with him, just to be there every night and watch him."

Like that barrel-rolling, goal-of-the-year beauty last week, which still has the hockey world talking.

"Unbelievable. It's ridiculous, his presence and how he's always puck-focused. He was on his back and was able to find the puck and slide it in the net," Clark said.

Like most players who arrive in the NHL directly from Europe, Ovechkin can be unpredictable. But while it forces Clark to be on his toes, it causes nightmares for opposing blueliners.

"He is (unpredictable), which is good because defencemen don't know how to play him," said Clark, who played with the Flames from 1999 to 2004.

"Now, halfway through the season, they're backing off and giving him more space. Before, he would just go around guys, now he's learning to use them as a screen."

Ovechkin leads all freshmen in goals and points and has to be considered the favourite to win the Calder Trophy over fellow phenom Sidney Crosby.

If you're asking Clark, there's no debate.

"We just played Pittsburgh a couple of days ago and Crosby had a goal and three assists. But, at this point, I think Alex is much better than Sidney," Clark said.

Despite Ovechkin's nightly highlight-reel rushes, fans in Washington haven't exactly been beating down the door at the MCI Center.

"With the season we're having, I think most of the crowd is there to see him and find out what all the commotion is about," Clark said.

"We don't get much written in the paper but that's where all (the coverage) goes, is to Alex.

"This is Redskins country here. Then, it's the Wizards, college basketball, college football. So we take the backburner."

Quite a difference from the media frenzy he experienced as a member of the Flames during the 2004 playoffs.

As hard as it was to be traded from a contender to a pretender, Clark said he hopes to be part of the young, up-and-coming Caps when they start to mature.

"I stuck around in Calgary and was able to get to the final. It would be great if the same thing could happen here," says Clark, who notched 71 points in 278 games with the Flames.

"Teams know that we're not going to be a pushover ... Other teams are going to have to fight for every puck they want."


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