ARLINGTON, Va. — Alex Ovechkin strolled into the locker room at the Capitals’ training facility Monday wearing an Italian soccer club jersey and his usual: “What, me worry?” gap-toothed grin.
A day before the Capitals and New York Rangers meet in Game 7 of their first-round NHL playoff series, the league’s reigning MVP rested, taking advantage of coach Bruce Boudreau’s decision to make practice optional.
“Well, you know, last game was biggest game of the year — at that time,” Ovechkin said.
“So right now, this game is the biggest game of the year for us.”
Ovechkin left it to teammates and opponents to dissect the latest points of contention heading into Tuesday night’s conclusion of what has been a series filled with intrigue:
• Did Capitals defenceman Shaone Morrisonn chomp on the right arm of Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky during a scrum in Game 6? Dubinsky was given an injection and took antibiotics as a precaution; at practice Monday, he unwrapped a bandage to reveal a red wrist to reporters.
“Last time I saw it happen was Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield,” Dubinsky said, adding that he’s “100 per cent sure” Morrisonn’s to blame.
“I don’t know what to say. That’s not what happened,” he said. “I didn’t do that.”
Boudreau chimed in, too: “I get so ticked off when I hear that. Shaone doesn’t know what the heck they’re talking about, and I don’t either. I looked at it from every different angle and I didn’t see a thing.”
• Morrisonn wasn’t suspended by the NHL, but the league did hand down the second punishment of the series: Capitals enforcer Donald Brashear was barred from a total of six games by the NHL for two transgressions, one before and one during Sunday’s 5-3 Capitals victory.
The bulk of his punishment, five games, came for levelling Blair Betts, New York’s top penalty-killing forward, in the first period.
Both players will miss Game 7; Betts has a broken orbital bone.
This comes after the league made Rangers coach John Tortorella sit out Game 6 for his bottle-tossing display in Game 5 at Washington.
In response to his faceoff with fans, the Capitals are putting additional security personnel in the area around the visiting bench and looking at what, if anything, can be done to address the Rangers’ concerns about gaps in the glass separating spectators from the bench.
After being shut out in Game 1-3, Ovechkin has scored a goal in each of the past three games.
Plus, after allowing Washington to score a total of eight goals in Games 1-4, Rangers goalie Henrik Ljundqvist has given up nine goals over his past four periods. He was yanked before the third period in each of the past two games.
“Hank’s got to play better,” Tortorella said, “and he knows that.”