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Penguins defensemen Orpik, Scuderi discuss shutting down Ovechkin

| Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, 10:09 p.m.
NHLI via Getty Images
The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin battles for the puck against the Penguins' Brooks Orpik on March 19, 2013, at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) shoves Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) from in front of the goal crease during a third-period power play Tuesday, March 19, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

Alex Ovechkin has scored more than 400 goals in nine seasons.

He has 22 in 32 games against the Penguins.

His Washington Capitals return Wednesday to Consol Energy Center, and he will try to shoot through a slump in which he has produced five goals in his past 12 games against the Penguins.

To figure out what works against Ovechkin, the Tribune-Review went to a couple of Penguins expert sources:

• Defenseman Brooks Orpik is in his fourth season of being primarily deployed against Ovechkin at even strength. The Penguins have held Ovechkin to two even-strength goals.

• Defenseman Rob Scuderi earned high grades from Penguins coaches — and, ultimately, a lucrative free-agent contract from Los Angeles — for his work against Ovechkin in a 2009 playoff series against the Capitals. Ovechkin went without a goal in two of the final five games, four of which the Penguins won.

Tactical approach

Orpik: “The only time you can really have success is if you have a good gap on him and get him early in the neutral zone. If you let him get that head of steam, he backs you off, and then, you're in a lot of trouble.”

Scuderi: “It's a cliche, and it's boring, but you have to try and take away time and space. Otherwise, he can get that wicked shot off. He's got great hands, a good toe-drag, every move that somebody can possibly have. You've just got to get in his face and not give him room to move.”

Orpik: “When we played against him and (former Capitals winger Alexander Semin) — both of them have that ability, even if you think you have a good stick on them, they can shoot the puck from behind their feet. That makes it really tough to block, and then, they use you as a screen, too.”

Mental preparation

Scuderi: “I'm sure he might get frustrated, but I don't think his game shows it. He just tries the same stuff. He's an elite player with a high-revving motor, and he just keeps coming.”

Orpik: “It helps (practicing against) our two guys (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin). It's not always a lot of fun, but there aren't a lot of guys that can do more than those two guys. You don't always win those battles, but going against them helps all of our defensemen when we face other great players. Especially the younger guys.”

Scuderi: “I always just let somebody play his game. As a younger guy, you find out real quick against a player of that caliber what he's capable of, what he can do. If something should happen, you just don't worry about it. You learn that as you get older.”

Measuring success

Orpik: “Winning. Of course, the more quality chances (Ovechkin) gets, that's probably less of a chance that we'll win the game, so…”

Scuderi: “He's Alex Ovechkin. Most likely he's going to get a chance or two. You can do everything right — positional, gap-wise, everything — and you still can be made to look silly and one ends up in the back of your net. You just have to be confident that you're sticking with the right game plan. That's what I think about.”

Orpik: “Don't give him the blue line. If you do that, you're in trouble.”

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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