Alex Ovechkin doesn't usually have a tan this time of year.
Not since his teenage days in Moscow has the Capitals' 26-year-old captain taken this much time off during a season without being injured.
"It's happened not too often to me," a refreshed Ovechkin said Friday after a spirited workout at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "I'm not used to watching the games from upstairs and staying (on the ice) after the morning skates. I'm pretty excited. I miss hockey a lot. It's a situation where you miss the game and you're tired of watching."
Is it possible that what seemed like a bad thing 12 days ago when Ovechkin was suspended three games for leaving his feet on a check on Zbynek Michalek turns out to be a good thing?
Instead of going to Ottawa for the NHL All-Star Game, Ovechkin spent a long weekend in Miami and on Friday he said he had mixed emotions about the time off.
"The All-Star Game is an unbelievable show and you want to be there," he said. "I wasn't. I was in Miami. I took some rest and I feel pretty good. You don't have to wake up at 9 a.m. or 8:30 to go to practice. You can sleep til 11 or 12, take some lunch, get in the sun and enjoy the weather. But it's not fun to go by yourself in Miami."
While it's clear Ovechkin's battery has been fully charged with his time off, what remains unclear is how his game will be affected by his third suspension. Another violent collision could result in a suspension of five or more games for the 6-foot-3, 230-pound winger.
"I said before I didn't think it was the right suspension for me," Ovechkin said. "It is what it is. The decision was made. I don't know if it's going to change rmy game or not. It's a hockey game, it's a physical game. I'm going to do my best to help this team take some points, make some hits and score some gioals. That's my goal."
Ovechkin's point production is down again this season. He's on pace for 33 goals and a career-low 64 points, but he's also on pace for more than 200 hits for the third time in four seasons.
"Ovi is Ovi," teammate Brooks Laich said. "If it's nature versus nurture, nature is going to win. He's a fierce competitor on the ice and guys don't want to play against him. You can't take the physical nature out of that guy, so I'm not concerned about it at all."
Ovechkin will return to a line with center Marcus Johansson and Alex Semin when the Caps visit the Canadiens on Saturday. In 24 career games against the Habs, Ovechkin has 27 points. Laich said he does not expect referees to watch Ovechkin any more closely than any other players on the ice.
"I don't think Alex is a dirty player and I don't think Alex thinks he's a dirty player," Laich said. "He accelerates to finish a check and he's a big, physical guy. Maybe if he's a smaller guy it's not such a big hit and people don't talk about it. I don't think Alex is going to change his game. He's not bred to play a non-physical let-up type of game."
Capitals coach Dale Hunter said Ovechkin is "dying to get back" in the lineup and he expects him to bring his "A" game on Saturday.
"Ovi has been playing the same way," Hunter said. "He's a physical guy and takes the puck hard to the net. He'll play the same way."