Alexander Ovechkin Returns to Russia to be With His Ailing Grandfather
Now the team is going to find out.
As multiple outlets have reported this morning, Ovechkin was not on the ice for practice with the Washington Capitals this morning, as he has already left for Russia to be with his ailing grandfather. He'll be out of the lineup for tomorrow night's game in Washington against Nashville, marking only the second time in his career that he's missed a game. Currently, Ovechkin has played in 203 consecutive games, the most on the team. As of now, there's no timetable for his return.
As a result, Washington will be moving forward Brooks Laich into Ovechkin's place on the top line centered by Nicklas Backstrom with Viktor Kozlov on the right.
Ovechkin's absence will provide the team with a very interesting challenge. The young Russian winger has gotten off to a comparatively slow start this season, notching just two goals and three assists in the team's first eight games. At the same time, it's been impossible to ignore the performance of fellow Russian Alexander Semin, who has seven goals and seven assists thus far, leaving him tied for the league lead in points with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin.
With Ovechkin gone, it's safe to assume that Semin will begin drawing the attention of other team's top lines. In a post-game presser last week in Washington, Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau said that he attributed a portion of Semin's success thus far this season to the fact that he was "hitting behind" Ovechkin, while his counterpart was drawing the bulk of the opposition's defensive attention. It'll be interesting to see how Semin responds to the added pressure, both on and off the ice.