Alex Ovechkin has been asked to be more involved for the Washington Capitals, and he's certainly delivering.
That tends to be the case against the Winnipeg Jets.
Ovechkin looks to continue his dominance of the Jets as the Capitals attempt to sweep back-to-back games in Winnipeg on Friday night.
Ovechkin has four goals and three assists in five games, but the Capitals (13-16-1) have won only three of those contests. One of those victories came Thursday, as Washington's captain scored one goal and set up tallies by Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson in a 4-0 win at Winnipeg (16-13-2).
Ovechkin also boosted his team's intensity level with a pair of crushing hits - including one that sent defenseman Mark Stuart to the locker room.
"We've talked a lot about this, and he was more involved in the game," coach Adam Oates said. "He needs to do the little things that let his game evolve and let Backie and Marcus evolve their games as well.
"He ends up getting his goal, the (power play). It was late, but it doesn't matter, he's going to get it. He made a great play on the second goal and then he makes a good play on Backie's (goal)."
The Capitals superstar shouldn't mind facing the Jets on consecutive nights. His 35 goals and 74 points against the Winnipeg/Atlanta franchise are his highest totals against any opponent. He has 11 points in nine meetings since the team relocated to Winnipeg prior to last season.
Backstrom has two goals and five assists in the past five games against the Jets after getting one of each Thursday.
Braden Holtby's success against the Jets has come this season, shutting them out in each of the last two matchups - both on the road. He's made 55 saves in those games, including 20 on Thursday. That may be reason enough for Oates to turn to him again.
"We need to play better, that would be the first thing," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "We've given up seven goals in two games (against Washington) and haven't scored one. They're playing chess, we're playing checkers."
Winnipeg, though, leads the Southeast Division by two points over struggling Carolina, and will try to get back on track after dropping two of three following a 5-0-1 stretch.
"It's nice that it's a short turnaround and we have a chance to redeem ourselves right away," said captain Andrew Ladd, who had six points during a five-game streak snapped Thursday.
Ladd had 13 points in as many games with Washington before coming up empty in the past two matchups.
Evander Kane's 12 goals are third on the team, two back of Ladd and Blake Wheeler. However, the 21-year-old left wing has just three goals in 12 games, and was a minus-2 with a season-high 15 penalty minutes and no shots Thursday.
It's unclear if Winnipeg will have Stuart back due to the effects of Ovechkin's hit. He returned for one shift in the third period Thursday, but left again with no update.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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