Ko­valchuk, Ovechkin to meet

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Cur­tis Zupke

BOS­TON — As Ilya Ko­valchuk pre­pared to return to the NHL af­ter five years, one of the first peo­ple he con­sulted was coun­try­man Alex Ovechkin.

They played to­gether for Rus­sia and share pro­fuse NHL scor­ing num­bers, hav­ing com­bined for 1,072 goals in 1,918 games. Ovechkin last week passed Sergei Fe­dorov as the high­est-scor­ing Rus­sian-born player and has 1,183 points go­ing into Mon­day.

That will be the first matchup between Ko­valchuk and Ovechkin, and the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals, since Ko­valchuk came back into the league this sea­son. Call it a Rus­sian icon de­light.

“Both of them are leg­ends over there,” Kings coach Wil­lie Des­jardins said. “It will be good. I think there will be a bat­tle between them. I think both want to make sure they have their best game.”

Ko­valchuk, through a team of­fi­cial, de­clined an in­ter­view Sun­day af­ter the Kings prac­ticed in Bos­ton. He hasn’t seemed en­thused about his per­sonal story lines on this East Coast ven­ture, al­though he re­vealed postgame last week that he was mo­ti­vated by the boos from New Jersey Devils fans upon his return to Pru­den­tial Cen­ter.

Ko­valchuk has rec­og­nized the medi­ocre sea­son for the Kings. They are in sec­ond-to-last place in the West­ern Con­fer­ence, even af­ter a 6-2-2 record in their last 10 games. Ko­valchuk hasn’t com­mented on whether he could be open to a trade, and that seems tricky given his three-year con­tract worth $6.25 mil­lion per sea­son. Ko­valchuk, who turns 36 in April, has a nomove clause for the first two years and can pro­vide a list of seven pos­si­ble trade des­ti­na­tions in the fi­nal year, ac­cord­ing to the hockey web­site CapFriendly.

He has shown jump and touches of his cinch scor­ing abil­ity from the past. He has 11 goals in 45 games, hav­ing sat out nearly a month be­cause of an an­kle pro­ce­dure. He also en­dured di­min­ished ice time for a strange spell un­der Des­jardins be­fore the in­jury.

Pavel Buch­nevich ,aNew York Rangers for­ward who played with Ko­valchuk in Rus­sia, watched that episode cu­ri­ously from afar.

“He was a great guy, a great team­mate,” Buch­nevich said. “If you have any ques­tions, he’s the first to sup­port you. He’s al­ways a good guy. I didn’t know what the sit­u­a­tion is with him and L.A. I think he’s a great player. He’s bet­ter right now [if] he plays on that first line with [Anze] Ko­pi­tar. He’s prob­a­bly more im­pact­ful for that team.”

Des­jardins has tried that at times, but the Kings have built some iden­tity in their cur­rent for­ward groups, with Ko­valchuk on a line with Carl Hagelin and Adrian Kempe.

The Kings have taken the ice with a new men­tal­ity, too. Ko­pi­tar cited Satur­day’s over­time loss against the Bos­ton Bru­ins as an ex­am­ple.

“Those are the games that we couldn’t punch [out] one point, or punch it into OT be­fore,” Ko­pi­tar said. “For what­ever rea­son, we were doubt­ing our­selves a lit­tle bit. Now we’re find­ing a way to put up points. That’s es­sen­tially what it comes down to.”

Etc.

Jeff Carter (lower-body in­jury) watched prac­tice in street clothes and doesn’t ap­pear close to re­turn­ing. … Sean Walker will come out of the lineup as part of the back-end de­fense­men ro­ta­tion, Des­jardins said. … Jonny Brodzin­ski (shoul­der) is prac­tic­ing but “he’s a lit­tle bit ways away,” Des­jardins said.

TONIGHT

AT WASH­ING­TON When: 4 PST. On the air: TV: FS West; Ra­dio: iHeartRa­dio (LA Kings Au­dio Net­work). Up­date: Wash­ing­ton has played five con­sec­u­tive one­goal games and is 3-1-1, but those are the only Cap­i­tals vic­to­ries in their last 12 games. Jonathan Quick is 9-2 with a 2.23 goals-against av­er­age against Wash­ing­ton.

Jim Mone As­so­ci­ated Press

ILYA KO­VALCHUK, right, is not say­ing whether he would be open to be­ing traded by the Kings.

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