For the second time, the Caps brightest star wasn't in the lineup.
Alex Ovechkin, the league's leading scorer, missed his fourth game of the season against Florida on Tuesday as he served the first of a two game suspension for ramming Chicago's Brian Campbell.
Ovechkin will return to the Caps lineup Saturday in Tampa, but Campbell – who suffered a broken clavicle as well as a fractured rib – needs surgery and is out for the remainder of the regular season and part of the playoffs.
Ovechkin rammed Campbell from behind a few feet in front of the end boards. Campbell lost his footing and slammed into the boards. Washington coach Bruce Boudreau says Ovechkin is so strong, Campbell just went flying.
“I know my own strength, and it's not very,'' said Boudreau. “He's 230 pounds and strong as an ox. I guarantee, he didn't hit the guy to send him into the boards to hit him. He was pushing, the first man on the forecheck, and then he was going to the bench. Nine times out of 10, that's not going to happen.''
Said Ovechkin: "I didn't mean to make someone injured. But you know, it's a hockey game."
The Panthers had different opinions on Ovechkin's hit, the suspension and the star's style of play. While each player and coach interviewed said they enjoy watching Ovechkin from afar, coach Pete DeBoer says if Ovechkin will change his hard-charging style “depending on whether he wants to be suspended multiple times a year.
“We all admire his skill and his speed and how he plays the game,'' DeBoer continued. “There isn't a coach out there who doesn't like talent with physical play. But when guys get seriously hurt, that's unfortunate.''
Ovechkin missed the Capitals 6-2 win against Florida in Washington on Dec. 3 because he was suspended for kneeing Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason in the previous game. Ovechkin was hurt for two other games.
According to The Washington Post, Ovechkin has been fined close to $335,000 this season. His latest suspension will cost him $232,645.
“He doesn't mean to do it, it's just his reaction,'' Panthers winger Cory Stillman said. “He plays hard. He's coming out and he is the star. If you have a young kid growing up who wants to be a hockey player, you want him to be Alex Ovechkin. He's complete. He hits, skates. Besides fighting, which he doesn't have to do, he's the whole package. He does it all."
Ovechkin put out a statement through the team on Tuesday:
"I am very sorry that Brian was injured and I hope he is able to return to his team soon. NHL hockey is a physical game. We all play hard every time we are on the ice and have battles each shift in every game we play so we can do our jobs and win. As players we must accept responsibility for our actions and I am no different but I did not intend to injure Brian and that is why I was disappointed with the NHL's decision yesterday. Every time I have the honor to play for my team, I will continue to do what I have done since I was taught to play. I will play hard, play with passion and play with respect for my teammates, opponents and fans. I look forward to returning to my team and doing everything I can to be the best player I can be."
-- DeBoer reiterated that injured winger Nathan Horton should be back in the Florida lineup sometime during the current homestand. Horton could return Thursday against Phoenix.
-- Injured winger Byron Bitz missed his third game Tuesday and DeBoer says he's doubtful for Thursday.
-- Just walked through the new Den of Honor area; the glass cases and stuff aren't up, but the new blue carpet, the flat screens and the mural wraps are. Looks pretty cool. Should be a nice addition to the arena.