Tocchet: Ovechkin is league's best
With all apologies to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, whom Lightning coach Rick Tocchet includes as two of the game's top three players, Washington's Alex Ovechkin is the best, Tocchet said.
Beyond the skills and the stats -- Ovechkin enters the game tied for second in the league with 25 goals, third with 49 points and first with 227 shots (62 more than second-place Dustin Brown) -- there is this:
"Ovechkin just doesn't sit on the outside and take one-timers," Tocchet said. "He's in front of the net. he goes behind. He does a lot of wraps. He's a special player because he's an aggressive player. That's why I think he's the best player, because he's an aggressive player. He's not just a pure sniper who sits on the outside all day."
Tocchet said he hopes the Lightning does not treat him with too much respect.
"The last time Ovechkin, the first five minutes hit three of our players hard, and I didn't see much reaction, which wasn't something I liked," Tocchet said of the last time the teams played. I don't want our team to go into that mode of we'll play off him. I want us to be aggressive. I don't want turnaways on him. I want to see guys hitting him. This is division rival. We're not here to sit around and watch these guys. We have to be very physical against them."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Seems like defenseman Paul Ranger is out of tonight's game with an undisclosed injury. No word on if it is serious. Either way, with Lukas Krajicek already out, the team likely will have to call up someone from AHL Norfolk. We'll know more later. ... Tocchet said Krajicek has a new upper body injury to go with his old one. He came out of the lokcer room today with bandages on fingers of both hands. ... Tocchet said we might see a lot more of a reunited MVP line of center Vinny Lecavalier and wings Marty St. Louis and Vinny Prospal. Ryan Malone had displaced Prospal of late, but Tocchet said he likes the line of center Jeff Halpern, Malone and Evgeny Artyukhin. "Maybe that magic," Tocchet said of the MVP line. "We've been looking for that all year, so we'll give it a shot. We need production from that line." ... Mike Smith gets the start in goal. ... Goalie Olie Kolzig practiced with the team for the first time since tweaking a back muscle. He said he hopes to be back on the bench for the Jan. 8 game against the Coyotes. ... Tocchet said he really likes the work defenseman Matt Smaby has been doing. He said he likes the way Smaby skates and rarely gets beaten and gets to the puck in the corners. Doesn't mind the way Smaby hits, either. "He eliminates the man," Tocchet said. "If he works on his puck-handling, he can be a very reliable defenseman in the NHL." ... More compliments for Artyukhin. Tocchet called him "a menace," but in a good way because of the way he hits. "Arty has been a game-changer for us the past four or five games," Tocchet said. "He's a menace. Guys don't want to go back for the puck. He has to play like that consistently and he's going to get more ice time."
And finally, there will be a concert on the Chrysler/Jeep Plaza after Saturday's game with the Hurricanes. Buy a ticket to the game and see Danko Jones, fresh off a tour with Motorhead, for free.