Slick Russian believes in Caps

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:00 PM ET

Alex Ovechkin will have a new centre with the Washington Capitals this season and, for a change, a legitimate second line to go with more depth across the roster to help carry the load.

Even better, there are expectations his team will actually challenge for a playoff berth and make some noise in the Southeast Division - all reasons why the always-eager Russian winger is particularly geared up for the new campaign.

"We finally got more experienced guys like (Viktor) Kozlov, (Michael) Nylander, (Tom) Poti and we the young guys have more experience," the 22-year-old said on a conference call yesterday. "My goal is to make the playoffs."

The Capitals were 29-41-12 in 2005-06, Ovechkin's rookie season, and remained at the same level last season when they finished 28-40-14. Much of that time was spent identifying which young players would join Ovechkin in forming the nucleus of a contender.

Alexander Semin, another slick Russian winger, and defenceman Steve Eminger were two other key players to emerge while veteran Chris Clark elevated his game and took over as captain.

ICE CHIPS ...

Pittsburgh star F Sidney Crosby left practice with a sore groin, but he said it is "not near" the severity of the one that caused him to miss three games last November ... Boston acquired D Nathan Saunders and D Brett Skinner from Anaheim for C Mark Mowers ... Rising star G Carey Price has survived the most recent cuts announced by Montreal and is one of 26 players still on the NHL's team roster after the Canadiens cut 29 players.


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