In his first game in Washington since the start of November, Ovechkin looks to help the Southeast Division-leading Capitals win their fourth straight home game Friday night against a Montreal Canadiens team that has had little success on the road.
Ovechkin missed six games because of an upper-body injury, believed to be a strained left shoulder, but came back with a flourish in a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Playing his 15th game, Ovechkin scored his 15th goal with 4:56 left in the first period while the Capitals were on the power play.
“It’s always nice when you get hurt and you come back and you score in the first period on your first shot,” said Ovechkin, who is tied with the Rangers’ Marian Gaborik(notes) for the league lead. “You feel pretty good about yourself. After that I feel pretty cool. I was not afraid to take some hits and go battle.”
Washington (13-4-4), which went 4-2-0 while Ovechkin was out, has earned at least one point in the last 10 games the two-time reigning league MVP has played (7-0-3).
This will be Ovechkin’s first game at the Verizon Center since suffering the injury in a 5-4 overtime loss to Columbus on Nov. 1. The Capitals have totaled 15 goals in winning three games in the nation’s capital since.
Although Ovechkin has returned, Washington is still a little banged-up.
Left wing Quintin Laing(notes)—out three games earlier this season with swine flu — is expected to miss up to six weeks with a broken jaw suffered Tuesday and Alexander Semin(notes) could miss his second straight game with a sore right wrist.
Goaltender Jose Theodore(notes) returned to practice Wednesday after missing Tuesday’s game due to personal matters, but his status is uncertain for this contest. Theodore spent his first 8 1/2 seasons in the NHL with the Canadiens (10-11-0), winning the Hart and Vezina Trophies in 2002.
He recorded a 1.44 goals-against average with one shutout in winning both starts against his former team last season.
Semyon Varlamov(notes) has been stellar in net as Theodore’s replacement this season, going 8-1-0 with a 2.59 GAA in 10 games. In his only career start against Montreal on Dec. 13, Varlamov stopped 32 shots in a 2-1 victory.
The Capitals went 3-1-0 against the Canadiens last season with Ovechkin recording two goals and two assists.
Montreal is coming off Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout win over Carolina, its second victory in five games.
Carey Price(notes), who tied a team record with 53 saves in Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Nashville, turned aside 30 shots and stopped all six Carolina attempts in the tie-breaker. Maxim Lapierre(notes) scored the winner in the shootout after Andrei Kostitsyn(notes) drew Montreal even 17:14 into the third.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted in the first two periods but we got the two points, that’s the only thing that matters right now,” Lapierre said.
Montreal is trying to notch back-to-back victories for the first time since winning a season-best four straight from Oct. 20-26. Accomplishing this could be difficult on the road, though.
The Canadiens are 2-6-0 away from Montreal since Oct. 6, tallying two goals or fewer in six of those contests. They’ve also lost three straight in Washington.
Price is 0-0-2 with a 3.82 GAA in two career starts against the Capitals.