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Ovechkin's suspension no surprise to Pens

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By Josh Yohe
Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009

Washington star Alex Ovechkin's two-game suspension is the talk of the hockey world, and many of the Penguins expected the NHL to discipline the reigning MVP.

Ovechkin has been ejected from two of his team's past three games and drew a two-game suspension after a kneeing violation Monday against Carolina's Tim Gleason. He was ejected from a game last Wednesday for hitting Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta from behind.

"To be honest, I thought he was getting suspended when he hit Kaleta from behind last week," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "If you look at how he hits, it's all or nothing. He takes 10 strides before he hits guys."

Ovechkin's collision with Gleason was reminiscent of the knee-on-knee hit that injured Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar during the second round of last season's playoffs.

"It was a really similar hit," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "Really similar."

Gonchar missed the final two periods of Game 4, along with Games 5 and 6 in the second-round series with an injured MCL. Ovechkin was neither suspended nor fined for the hit, though it became clear last spring that many of the Penguins lost respect for him following that play.

Ovechkin and Gonchar will be teammates for Russia in the 2010 Winter Olympics, and perhaps with that in mind, the Penguins' defenseman politely declined a request to speak about Ovechkin's suspension.

Some of Gonchar's teammates, though, suggested the league made the right decision.

"It was a bad hit," Crosby said. "I'm sure it was scary for both guys."

Ovechkin hobbled off the ice and did not play the remainder of Monday's game against Carolina.

He skated today in Washington and pronounced himself healthy. Ovechkin is not, however, planning on changing his style of play, calling himself "more angry" after being suspended.

No one in the Penguins' locker room was surprised to see the league hit Ovechkin with a suspension.

"Not at all," Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton said. "The league has laid down the law lately, and no one can be above the law."

The Penguins didn't call Ovechkin dirty, but some acknowledged that his game frequently leaves others at risk.

"The play last year on Gonchar wasn't a totally clean hit," Eaton said. "He's a super-intense competitor. He brings it every shift. I wouldn't classify him as dirty."

Ovechkin isn't a favorite among Penguins players. He and Crosby, the league's two biggest names, had a couple of verbal confrontations last season.

Also, Ovechkin has attempted to wipe out countryman Evgeni Malkin on more than one occasion over the past three seasons.

"I don't know if he goes over the line," Orpik said. "But I think the way he does it, he's setting himself up to go over the line. When you take a straight line at people like that, that's when you get in trouble."

Many believe Ovechkin's reckless style of play puts himself and others in harm's way.

Even Washington coach Bruce Boudreau recently said that he would like Ovechkin to tone his game down.

"With the way the game is now, it's impossible to play that way for 82 games," Orpik said. "You've got to pick your spots, especially in an Olympic year. My personal feeling is, if you play that way every night, it's going to take a toll on you."

Suspensions have been handed out in large numbers lately around hockey. Penguins left wing Matt Cooke was given a two-game suspension for an open-ice hit last week against the Rangers. Montreal's Georges Laraque was recently leveled with a five-game suspension for kneeing.

Ovechkin is the latest to be disciplined.

"You can't judge a guy from one hit," Crosby said. "Some guys see suspensions as something they learn from. Other guys brush it off and do it again."

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