The Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin downplayed speculation the superstar winger might be dealing with an injury after he skipped practice yesterday.
It was the first workout in preparation for the second-round series against the Penguins that begins tomorrow at the Verizon Center.
"He'll be practicing [today], OK?" Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau told the Washington Post. "Sometimes his body gets beat up because he plays so much. He just plays a lot. So he needs a little bit more rest than other guys. So he's just resting."
Ovechkin, the only player on the Capitals to miss practice, opted instead for a private workout with his personal strength and conditioning coach. He was asked if that coach suggested he skip practice.
"He's my coach, not my doctor," Ovechkin said.
Count Penguins center Evgeni Malkin among those hoping for a little less hostility from Capitals fans than the team got on the road from Philadelphia Flyers fans in the first round.
Although the throngs at Wachovia Center seemed to target primarily Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Malkin got dumped on, too. Literally.
"I think Philadelphia fans, not good fans because we sit [on the] bench and every time it's popcorn [on] my head," he said. "It's not good. But maybe Washington fans [will] be better."
Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who spent his first nine NHL seasons with Washington, said this is a new, more dynamic breed of Capitals fans who show up in larger and louder numbers.
"The organization worked on it," he said, starting with bringing in former Penguins winger Jaromir Jagr.
"And then, obviously, Alex [Ovechkin]. He's a great thing for the city, as a player and as a person. He brought a lot of attention to himself, and that's why hockey is getting bigger and bigger there."
Gonchar can remember when Penguins fans traveled in large numbers for road games against the Capitals.
"I remember playing at home, but it wasn't feeling quite like a home game," he said.
A day after Malkin was named one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy awarded to the NHL MVP, he had other things on his mind.
"It's good. I had good season," he said. "But I'm not thinking about that now because we play Washington in second round."
Ovechkin and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk are the other finalists, the first time they are all Russian.
"It's good for national team and it's good guys," Malkin said.
Gonchar, a fellow Russian, agreed.
"The three of them, I was surprised a bit," he said.
"I've never seen it before. I'm very proud for Russia."
Crosby has never responded to remarks made by Capitals winger Alexander Semin to a Russian journalist this season.
"What's so special about [Crosby]? I don't see anything special there. Yes, he does skate well, has a good head, good pass. But there's nothing else," Semin said, adding that Crosby benefits from intense marketing.
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik has a thought about the remarks.
"I don't think that Sid needs any extra motivation, but what Semin said was pretty stupid," Orpik said. "If anything, it was out of jealousy."
Penguins defenseman Hal Gill left practice briefly after getting cut beneath the left eye. ... Neither Malkin nor Gonchar is familiar with Washington rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov, who also is Russian, beyond what they saw of him in the first round against the New York Rangers. ... The Penguins added goaltender Brad Thiessen primarily for practice help, and he joined them midway through yesterday's workout. He was signed to a two-year, entry-level contract nearly a month ago after going 25-12-4 with a 2.12 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage for Northeastern. He played all 41 games for the Huskies this season and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. ... NBC continues to block the Penguins from showing its network games -- including tomorrow's series opener -- on the big screen outside Gate 3 at Mellon Arena, but fans can watch the rest of the Penguins-Capitals games there.