There seems to be some uncertainty as to when Alex Ovechkin will return to the lineup. Ovechkin remarked in an interview with Dmitry Chesnokov that he will miss 4-5 weeks. The Capitals issued a statment disputing the validity of this report.
Whatever, it appears Ovechkin will be out a while longer, whether that is few games or a few weeks. Russian machine might not break, but it occasionally gets dinged. Does this threaten the Caps' playoff hopes? Probably not. The Southeast Division is stumbling badly out of the gate with three teams in the bottom four of the conference and another -- Tampa Bay -- that is hanging onto a top-eight slot by virtue of dragging games into extra time (no team in the East has more extra time, one-point losses).
With respect to making the playoffs, Ovechkin's absence might come back to haunt the Caps at some point, but we doubt it. We are, instead, reminded of another Russian -- Sergei Fedorov. Fedorov missed 61 games of the 1997-1998 season, not to injury, but to a holdout. That was the year that Fedorov was tendered an offer sheet by the Carolina Hurricanes that could have paid him up to $38 million, with bonuses. The Detroit Red Wings matched the offer, dressed Fedorov for 21 games of the regular season, then had the benefit of his presence for 22 playoff games that ended with a Stanley Cup.
The point is that how many games Ovechkin misses now is not as relevant as how he plays -- and how the Caps play -- when he returns. And, that he is healthy in the spring, in time for what Caps fans hope will be Russian history repeating itself.