Ovechkin's arrival overshadowed

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

Alex Ovechkin peered to his left, then his right, looking for the media scrum that never came.

Normally when the Washington Capitals superstar makes a stop in Toronto, there is as little room to manoeuvre in the reporter-packed dressing room as there is on the ice when the trap-minded New Jersey Devils are throwing a defensive blanket over him.

But with the hometown Maple Leafs holding a number of press conferences just down the hallway at the Air Canada Centre on the day John Ferguson was relieved of his duties, Ovechkin and his teammates were mere afterthoughts, having to deal with just one Toronto reporter.

On the surface, the circus-like atmosphere looming over the Leafs might appear to be an advantage for the Caps, who look to feast on the bumbling Buds in an upcoming home-and-home series that kicks off tonight in Toronto.

In reality, rookie Caps coach Bruce Boudreau feels the managerial change will, in fact, make the Toronto team a much more dangerous animal, one he expects to come out flying this evening.

"Playing in Toronto, (the Leafs) are used to their distractions," said Boudreau, who played junior hockey with the Toronto Marlies. "And if we think they will be down because of everything going on, we are in big trouble.

"We figure they will come out hard. That always seems to be the case whenever a team goes through what they have."

In the Capitals, the Leafs will face a team led by talented kids Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin that has knitted together a four-game winning streak. The most recent victory came in Pittsburgh Monday when Backstrom's four-assist performance and Ovechkin's two-goal, one-assist night helped the Caps defeat the host Penguins 6-5 in a shootout.

With various NHL teams hoping to flood Ovechkin with offer sheets when he reached restricted free agency status this summer, the skilled Russian ended such speculation by inking a 13-year, $124 million US contract with the Caps earlier this month.

"I like it here (with the Caps)," Ovechkin said. "I decided to pretty much spend my whole career here. I really think we have a good future here but we have to keep going."

Ovechkin's sympathy for those Leaf fans enduring yet another chapter in the franchise's 40-plus year soap opera only goes so far.

"It's a hard situation," he said. "But realistically I don't really think about what's going on here in Toronto.

"We're just worried about ourselves."

Boudreau, who replaced the outgoing Glen Hanlon behind the Caps bench earlier this season, is credited with allowing the team's cache of young skilled players to flaunt their talents without being shackled by defensive systems.

"Personally I'm just (coaching) the way I've always (coached)," Boudreau said. "This is a very talented group of kids. Our scouting staff deserves a lot of credit."


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