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Capitals Ready To Rally Around Ovechkin, Excited For Captain’s Return vs. Ducks

The Washington Capitals are excited for Alex Ovechkin’s return against the Anaheim Ducks and will wear “Papa Ovi” stickers on their helmets to honor his father’s legacy.



ARLINGTON, V.A. — Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has a presence that the team — and arguably every team at the NHL level — can't replicate. The star isn't just an X-factor on the ice as one of the league's greatest goal scorers of all time, but he's also a leader, a role model, a teammate, a brother and, most importantly now, a son. A son who will carry his late father, Mikhail, close in his heart as he continues his pursuit of Wayne Gretzky and returns to game action on Thursday.

As Ovechkin takes the ice, he and his teammates will play for Mikhail, and they are also ready to get right back in the fight starting with a huge game against the Anaheim Ducks.

"I just want to come back right away, put my mind in a different position," Ovechkin said. "We're struggling right now, so I just want to try to do my best to bring energy, bring something to the team."

The Capitals will all wear "Papa Ovi" stickers on the back of their helmets to honor Ovechkin's dad, who died at age 71 on Feb. 15. Ovechkin missed the last four games after returning to Russia to be with his family and mourn Mikhail's death. He arrived back in D.C. on Wednesday, immediately heading to MedStar Capitals Iceplex to get back on the ice and be around his teammates.

"I just want to come back right away, put my mind in a different position," Ovechkin said. "We're struggling right now, so I just want to try to do my best to bring energy, bring something to the team."

Hockey is a brotherhood. All 32 locker rooms across the league are tight-knit, with players forming life-long bonds and standing by one another through on and off-ice adversity. It's no different for the Capitals, who are looking to snap a five-game losing streak and get a win for their captain. And with No. 8 back in the mix, they are ready to rally around him, too.

"Everything he does on the ice, you can't replicate with one guy and that boost is obviously huge," Trevor van Riemsdyk said. "But the stuff he does off the ice, he's a huge leader of this team. He's got a great attitude coming into the rink, puts a smile on people's faces, and it's awesome to have him back. We definitely missed him."

T.J. Oshie, who lost his father, "Coach" Tim, to early onset Alzheimer's disease back in 2021, explained that players have the ability to bounce back from adversity in special ways, and he felt that in his first game back following his dad's passing. He had a hat trick in that game, and looking back on that night and considering his captain, Oshie believes that Ovechkin will have his father watching over him on Thursday.

"It was a way not to take your mind off what happened, but it's a way of freeing up a little bit. Being with your teammates, these guys become your brothers. I knew — and I think O knows — how much we support each other with things that are bigger than hockey," Oshie told Capitals Radio 24/7's Ben Raby. "The performance after that, I'm not saying it's a guarantee, it can definitely go one of two ways, but I felt like Coach Osh was with me on my night in my return, and that's why those pucks seemed to keep coming towards me that game. I feel like I could have probably scored a few more that game. It's a strange thing; I don't think you can explain it. But we're all super excited for the big man to return and to support him. I imagine he's going to have an angel watching over him tonight."

READ MORE ON WHN: Alex Ovechkin Reflects On Time With Father, Opens Up About Return To Washington Capitals

Ultimately, Ovechkin's return is a major spark for the team on and off the ice at this point in time, where the team is in the midst of one of their worst losing streaks in recent years but is still very much in the playoff conversation.

"He's our leader and he's just a guy that's been around a long time and knows what it takes to win," Dylan Strome said. "And you can really tell there's a void missing in a lot of aspects of the game when he's not playing. I think we need him back and happy to have him back for tonight's game."

With Ovechkin back, the Capitals are confident that he can bring a spark, but they're also ready to be right there beside him and do what they can to rise above adversity and turn things around while pushing for the postseason.

"I think Alex wants to come back and help our team be successful, whatever that means," head coach Peter Laviolette added. "Whether it's him scoring three goals or one goal or just playing a great game and our team winning the hockey game — that's probably first and foremost on his list — but I'm sure he wants to come back and have a presence in the game."

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