Alex Ovechkin will aim to continue his torrid start to the season on Tuesday night when the Washington Capitals host the Colorado Avalanche.
Ovechkin, who will play in his 1,200th career NHL game on Tuesday, collected two goals and two assists in the Capitals' season-opening, 5-1 win over the New York Rangers. The three-time Hart Trophy recipient also scored a goal three nights later in Washington's 2-1 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Ovechkin, 36, has 733 goals in his career to reside eight shy of matching Hall of Famer Brett Hull for fourth place in NHL history.
While Ovechkin's high-octane offense has paid dividends throughout his career, the Capitals appear content with the early returns from goaltender Vitek Vanecek.
Vanecek burst on the scene by posting a 21-10-4 record in 37 appearances (36 starts) with Washington in 2020-21. The 25-year-old was selected in the 2021 Expansion Draft by the Seattle Kraken, only to be traded back to the Capitals this past summer for a second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.
Vanecek has turned aside 45 of 48 shots this season to state his case for more playing time in place of former first-round pick Ilya Samsonov, who had a 13-4-1 record in 19 appearances (18 starts) in 2020-21.
"He has kind of carried on from where he left off last year," goaltending coach Scott Murray said of Vanecek, per The Washington Post. "He's pretty consistent with his work ethic; he is a great kid, a great worker. He's grown up, he's a great pro, and the results have come along with that."
Samsonov had been plagued by a lower-body injury before playing in the preseason finale on Oct. 8.
"We know the skill and the pedigree (of Samsonov), and I think he's started to put good days together, and sometimes that is not easy for young guys," Murray said, per The Post.
While it's uncertain if Samsonov will draw his first start on Tuesday, the answer is defined in regard to Nathan MacKinnon. The Avalanche star forward is out of NHL COVID protocol and will make his season debut.
"Tested positive for COVID, I didn't believe them at first," MacKinnon said on Tuesday. "Didn't feel anything. I was working out the whole time at home, doing all I can to stay in shape. It's just unfortunate. You know, I didn't infect anybody in my family. Nobody got sick. No teammates got sick. So that's lucky I guess. Yeah, I didn't feel anything."
MacKinnon received two negative test results before joining his teammates on Monday night.
Without MacKinnon, the Avalanche recorded a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday and a 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues three nights later. Veteran defenseman Jack Johnson did not play in Saturday's game because of COVID protocols.
"There's different options that we can look at to try to field the best team we possibly can for the game in Washington," Bednar said, per The Denver Post.
Captain Gabriel Landeskog will sit out Tuesday's contest to complete his two-game suspension for boarding Blackhawks center Kirby Dach in the season opener.
Nazem Kadri notched a pair of assists on Saturday to collect his second straight two-point performance to start the season.
The teams last faced each other during the 2019-20 season. Kadri scored a goal and set up two others to help Colorado win 6-3 on Oct. 14, 2019, but Washington salvaged the split by overcoming an early two-goal deficit in a 3-2 victory on Feb. 13, 2020.
--Field Level Media