Capitals forward Ovechkin is fine but gets day off after big hit

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ARLINGTON, Va. - Alex Ovechkin was given Wednesday off, an excused absence from practice that Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said had nothing to do with the "stinger" the league's reigning MVP got from a shoulder-first crash into the boards.

"He's fine," Boudreau said. "I wanted to give him today off to rest. He's probably a little stiff, I would think, but I mean, he's fine. And I asked him how his shoulder was. He says he's OK, no problem."

During Tuesday night's 3-2 loss at Boston, Ovechkin - who leads the NHL with 31 goals - hit the boards with his head and right shoulder, then remained motionless on the ice for about 15 seconds before rolling over and rubbing his face with his glove. Although he left the ice a few minutes later, he was doubled over and flexing his right arm.

He sat on the bench just a few minutes before walking off through the tunnel and slamming his gloves and helmet to the ground. But he returned for the start of the third period.

Boudreau was asked if he held his breath when he saw Ovechkin go down.

"Forget the breath. I lost my mind," the coach said. "The more you see it on the replay, just to see how tough he is - he went in fast and hard. I was a little disappointed in the (Boston) Garden faithful, I mean, booing him when he was down. There wasn't a person in the stands that could have taken that kind of hit and got back up."

Ovechkin made a brief appearance at Washington's practice facility Wednesday but ducked out without speaking to reporters. He is expected to participate Thursday when the Capitals hold three-on-three scrimmages at an outdoor rink in Chevy Chase, Md.

"You don't want anybody to get injured like that, especially Ovie, because he's been an awesome player for this club," forward Sergei Fedorov said.

The Southeast Division-leading Capitals' next game is Saturday at home against the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.

Washington will see the return of key defenceman Tom Poti, who missed the last 15 games with a groin injury.

"We'll be happy to have him back, that's for sure," Boudreau said. "He's a big part of our team. He logs 28 minutes a night."

To make room for Poti, the team sent rookie defenceman Karl Alzner back down to AHL affiliate Hershey on Wednesday.

"Tom Poti's ready to play," Boudreau said. "We just have to send (Alzner) back."

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