Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin fought through knee injury, will continue to do so in World Championships


The one silver lining about an early exit from the playoffs is the added time off to recover from injuries.

Yet in the summer of 2010, three superstar players chose to play for Russia in the World Championships tournament right after their teams were knocked out of the playoffs. Those three players would be Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin.

It’s excessive to say that all three suffered injuries because they didn’t take that time off, but I can’t say I’m shocked that all three dealt with wear and tear from playing a ton of hockey during the last few years. Datsyuk was limited to 56 regular season games in 2010-11, Malkin was forced to undergo knee surgery that cut his season in half and Ovechkin fought through issues of his own.

While Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals didn’t give many specifics about the severity of his knee injury (beyond saying it was more serious than many realized), the team admitted that he dealt with problems for about two months, according to CSN Washington.

“I don’t want to say too much but it was way more serious than all you people were thinking,” Boudreau said. “There was a reason why he wasn’t practicing to save himself for the game. You know that when something’s wrong, something’s [really] wrong and he’s never going to be one of those guys that sits there and takes days off. He would take a practice off so he could play in the game.”

Ovechkin admitted to being hurt and intimated it could be more than one injury.

“I have a couple of injuries,” he said.  “But it is what it is, I get hurt, everybody gets hurt.”

OK, so he admits that he was playing hurt … but that was just for the playoffs, right? One can only imagine how much Ovechkin could benefit from the time off he could get this summer if he said “No” to the invitation to play for Team Russia once again.

Unfortunately, pride and loyalty swept logic in this case. Despite admitting that he doesn’t really want to go, Ovechkin will make the baffling – perhaps downright ludicrous – decision to play in the World Championships for Russia once again.

“Yea, I talked to President Tretiak, he asked me if I’m going and I said yes,” he said.

“I don’t want to go there but I will.  I want to play in the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup but the situation is the situation.  I’m going to play for my country and try to win gold.”

Look, I understand the urge to honor one’s country, but how do the Capitals feel about their $9.5 million per year man risking further injury in that tournament? It made some sense for Ovechkin to seek redemption in last year’s WC after Russia’s embarrassment in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but why now?

A lot of the criticisms lobbed at the Capitals organization are done simply because they lost games, even if their decisions were often logical. This, however, seems like an obvious situation in which the team needs to stand its ground. Ovechkin should rest his knee (and other possible ailments), period. After all, there are plenty of gold medals he can fight for in the future when he’s in a healthier state.

Hopefully another bid for a gold medal will be worth the Capitals organization holding their breath.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”