Can the Winnipeg Jets find a way to stop Alexander the Great?
That was one of the big questions circulating inside the MTS Centre as the Jets were getting set to host the Washington Capitals on Thursday night (7:35 p.m., TSN Jets, TSN 1290).
Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin is off to a slow start by his own lofty standards, but still has seven goals and 14 points in 16 games this season.
Jets head coach Claude Noel understands the Capitals have a lot of weapons, but trying to shut down Ovechkin remains a priority.
“When he’s going, he can be vicious in his game — I mean vicious from a respect standpoint — he competes and goes,” said Noel. “If he gets on the board early, gets a hit early, feels good about things, boy he can be a really dangerous player and he can hurt you. You’ve got to be aware of him. I’ve seen him play some dynamic games.
“I don’t know that there’s many people that can control him. It’s not going to be a one-man shadow of the guy, it’s going to be committee.”
Part of that committee will be the defence pairing of Mark Stuart and Dustin Byfuglien.
“You’ve got to be sure to take away his time and space, he’s not one of those guys you can kind of just keep to the outside and give him a shot. He has a lethal shot, so you really have to try and keep the puck away from him,” said Stuart. “You have to be ready every shift or he’s going to make you look stupid. You enjoy playing against those guys because it’s a challenge and if you do shut him down, it’s such a good feeling for you.”
Ovechkin described his season this way.
“So, so,” said Ovechkin. “The team sometimes plays well and I play well and sometimes, the team not good and I play not good. It’s kind of a hard year.”
It will be a special night for Capitals rookie Cody Eakin, a Winnipegger who is appearing in his seventh NHL game and first in his hometown.
“It’s exciting to be here and have the opportunity,” said Eakin, who has one goal and four points in six games since he was recalled from the American Hockey League. “Not many guys get the chance this early in their career. Obviously, with the Jets back, I’m excited to be here.”
The Jets will dress the same lineup and use the same defence pairings and line combinations.
Ondrej Pavelec makes his 11th consecutive start in goal for the Jets, while the Capitals counter with Michal Neuvirth, who skated away with the Calder Cup as a member of the Hershey Bears back in 2009.