NHL Talk: Capitals, Golden Knights, Maple Leafs & Devils

The daily “NHL Talk” column is your go-to for quotes from players, coaches, managers, and more. Also, listen to THW contributors talk hockey every weekday on The Hockey Writers Podcast, available on iHeartRadio and wherever you listen to podcasts.

In this edition of NHL Talk, the Washington Capitals, Vegas Golden Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs, and New Jersey Devils have the best quotes from around the league.

Ovechkin Clears COVID-19 Protocols, Rejoins Capitals on Tuesday

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin is expected to make his return to Washington’s lineup at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. The 36-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday last week, forcing him to miss the 2022 NHL All-Star Weekend. After clearing COVID-19 protocols, he participated in morning skate with the Capitals.

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“I have five days off. I’m rested. I feel good,” Ovechkin said. “So obviously, right now, in this month we don’t have lots of games. We’re going to have lots of days off. So it’s time to work for your conditioning, work in the gym, get more power for your body and get ready for the rest of the season.”

Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 58 points (29 goals, 29 assists) in 46 games, ranking him fifth in NHL points and fourth in goals. He will look to continue his incredible season when he returns on Tuesday.

“He looks fine to me,” Laviolette said. “So I’ll go in and clear everything and make sure, but he should be good to go.”

Eichel Cleared for Full Contact at Golden Knights Practice

Golden Knights forward Jack Eichel is nearing his Vegas debut, cleared for full contact at practice on Monday. The 25-year-old was traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the Golden Knights on Nov. 4, underwent artificial disk replacement surgery on Nov. 12, and had been practicing as a non-contact participant since Jan. 11.

Buffalo Sabres Jack Eichel
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

“He’s been cleared for contact,” Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer said. “That’s the first day of full-contact he’s had, is it 17 or 18 months or something like that? So now it’s a matter of, how does he respond? Do a little bit more the next day, a little bit more the next day. Hope for no setbacks. He feels great right now in talking to him. He’s excited.”

The Golden Knights look to add Eichel, who has accumulated 355 points (139 goals, 216 assists) in 375 career NHL games, to its lineup in the near future. While there is still no set date for his return, it seems to be inching closer with each passing day.

“I don’t know what the timeline will be, but at least the process has started,” DeBoer said.

Marner Extends Goal Streak to Eight Games in Maple Leafs Win

Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner continued his outstanding, eight-game goal streak with a pair of goals in Toronto’s 4-3 overtime win versus the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. The 24-year-old has tallied 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) during that span, improving his stats to 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) in 34 games this season. Marner’s two goals on Monday counted as the game-tying and game-winning goals.

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“It was a bit of a crazy game there, taking the lead, getting the lead taken from us, and then coming back to tie that game,” Marner said. “Just the work ethic, the battle we had tonight, it was something we talked about wanting to do more of going into the second half, and tonight was a great night to kind of start that.”

Related: NHL Talk: Predators, Devils & Senators

The Maple Leafs trailed by one goal twice in the game, but evened things out with two one-goal leads on the night, including the overtime winner. The Hurricanes put up a tough fight, but Marner helped lead the way for Toronto with his two tallies and an assist on Auston Matthews’ second-period goal.

“A lot of really good things today in the game,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “It’s not an easy team to play against, they make it really hard on you to break out, get through the neutral zone and play on offense. I really liked how we stuck with our game.”

Devils Drop Ninth Consecutive Game, Captain Hischier Frustrated

The Devils are winless in their last nine games after falling 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators on Monday. New Jersey finds itself ranked last place in the Metropolitan Division and tied with the Sabres for 27th in the NHL, with a 15-26-5 record on the season. Frustration is building for the Devils as it desperately looks to find the win column again.

Nico Hischier New Jersey Devils
Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“It is frustrating, for sure,” Devils captain Nico Hischier said. “Nobody wants to be where we are. But we know that it’s on us and nobody’s going to do it for us. If you’re not going to dig in, then it’s not going to get better. If you’re on a losing streak, you have to play twice as hard, and we’re not doing that right now.”

The Devils are 1-9-0 in their last 10 games and haven’t earned any points in their last seven matches. Hischier commented on what they need to do to end their win drought.

“We’ve got to grip our sticks a little bit [tighter]. We can’t try fancy plays if it’s not going well,” Hischier said. “That’s just not how you get back on a winning streak. We’ve got to understand how we get out of this, and it’s not with cross-ice passes, it’s not with going in front of our goalie’s eyes, it’s not with losing our 1-on-1 battles.”

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