Alex Ovechkin diplomatic about benching: “You have to suck it up”

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If Alex Ovechkin is furious about his meager ice time, he’s at least keeping those views to himself. Once again the Washington Capitals captain is saying all the right things about Dale Hunter’s decision to glue him to the bench for most of Game 2, which he eventually decided with a 3-2 goal.

Katie Carrera collected Ovechkin’s thoughts on his 13:36 minutes of ice time.

“You have to suck it up and use what time Dale is giving to me,” Ovechkin said.

Yup, that more or less follows the pattern of Ovi’s diplomatic comments regarding his scant opportunities so far in the 2012 playoffs. For whatever it’s worth, Washington has five playoff wins so far after being swept from the second round in 2011.

Ovechkin seems to get Hunter’s message about what he needs to do to receive more ice time.

“Score goals and play safely,” Ovechkin said. “when you play safely the team and the coaches have trust in you.”

Fans who loved Ovechkin for the days when he was basically a human video game – hard hits, big goals and unfiltered exuberance – might be a little bummed about that, but it’s clearly what Hunter wants. The Capitals’ head coach provided some extra insight about Ovechkin’s ice time and attitude in these quotes from Stephen Whyno.

“Some nights, it’s one way – this night, one way and then the next night I double-shifted him a few games during the year. He played 25 minutes or something, and he’s fine with that, being extra tired at the end,” Hunter said. “He’s one of these guys that he’s a team guy and he wants to win very badly. He’s the biggest cheerleader there late in the game there when these guys are going down blocking shots.”

Who knows how long this fascinating Hunter-Ovechkin partnership will actually last, but Hunter probably makes the most prescient point: if they keep winning, they’ll keep the peace. Winning has a way of smoothing things over, after all – but the Capitals still have a long way to go before everyone starts looking like geniuses.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.