Cumberland Times-News

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January 18, 2013

Ovechkin, Caps need quick adjustment to new coach


The biggest change to the casual observer at camp has been the placement of Ovechkin, who has been skating at right wing instead of his customary position on the left side. It’s an experiment suggested by Oates to create a different look — one of raps on Ovechkin last year was that his moves to the net had become so familiar that defensemen had figured them out. The former two-time league MVP had a career-low 65 points last season.
“Everybody knows Ovi is to come from the left side,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “Maybe it changes the situation a little bit for the other team, how they’re going to play him and stuff.”
Last summer, McPhee mostly concentrated on keeping the team intact, but there was one major addition — second-line center Mike Ribeiro — and one major departure — enigmatic winger Alexander Semin. The Capitals have at times appeared overloaded at goaltender during the last few seasons, only to have injuries or other circumstances leave the team lacking in front of the net. They can knock on wood — or ice — and proclaim themselves in good shape, at least for now, based on 23-year-old Braden Holtby’s performance in last year’s playoffs.
Holtby got to stay in game shape by playing for Hershey in the AHL during the lockout. His competition is 24-year-old Michal Neuvirth, and both should get plenty of starts in the cramped schedule to come.
Scheme-wise, Oates falls somewhere in between the offensive-minded Bruce Boudreau and defensive-first Dale Hunter. The players had to overhaul their thinking when Boudreau was fired and replaced by Hunter last November after an early-season slump, so changing gears should be nothing do.
“It’s just business,” defenseman Mike Green said. “You just go and play and do what’s put in front of you. It’s all been different the last two years, but I feel like there’s a good feeling in here as far as where we’re going.”
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