Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Move to Rw Pays Dividend at Last Ovechkin Finally Gave in and Thrived

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Move to Rw Pays Dividend at Last Ovechkin Finally Gave in and Thrived

Article excerpt

At first, Washington's Alex Ovechkin was not a fan of first-time NHL coach Adam Oates' attempt to move him from left wing to right wing.

"We tried it a couple of times," Ovechkin said, reflecting on the start of the season while he and his teammates prepared to face the visiting New York Rangers in Game 1 of their playoff series Thursday night. "I didn't feel comfortable there."

So Oates temporarily relented and switched Ovechkin back to the left side for a handful of games, putting the two-time league MVP on a line with little-used players, as if to send the message: Are you sure this is what you want? That didn't last long. Ovechkin agreed to give Oates' experiment another try.

"I'm glad I did," Ovechkin said. "And I'm glad it worked."

Certainly can't argue with the results. By scoring 22 times in the last 21 regular-season games, Ovechkin ended up leading the league with 32 goals in a lockout-shortened schedule -- his third Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy, but first since 2009. He also helped push the Capitals to the Southeast Division title, even though they won only two of their first 11 games.

"Right now," Ovechkin said, "I feel probably the same way I feel on the left side."

Yes, after two seasons in which he was no longer the score-at- will superstar he had been earlier in his career, he is back. Once again, he is a headache for opponents to deal with, and one of the main reasons the Capitals feel they can win any game.

"He's got that swagger again, that swagger where you're sitting on the bench, and he's got the puck, and everyone's standing up, because he might score. He might score every time he gets the puck," teammate Matt Hendricks said.

After averaging more than 50 goals over his first five NHL seasons, with a high of 65, Ovechkin finished with only 32 two years ago, then 38 last year. One way to look at his resurgence: The 27- year-old Russian scored the same number of goals in 48 games this season as he compiled in 79 games in 2010-11. …

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