When youre in ninth place and chewing on the cud of a three-game losing streak, things can get a little testy out on the ice.
That was the case Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex when, in the middle of a drill, captain Alex Ovechkin and defenseman Dennis Wideman got into a little tussle that ended with Ovechkin breaking his stick over Widemans.
Here are two very different versions of what took place between the two teammates.
Wideman: He said he didnt like the stick he was using, so he broke it, and I said, Are you happy? and he said, Yeah. Then he said, Do you want to go for dinner tonight? and I was like, All right, and that was that. And we went back and continued the drill.
Ovechkin: He just said, Play against me hard, like were in a game. Its just something he asked me to do, so I did it.
Afterwards, no one seemed too upset about the altercation. In fact, with the Capitals in ninth place, three points out of a playoff spot and four points behind the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers, Caps general manager George McPhee and coach Dale Hunter saw it as a good sign.
Were not running a Sunday school, McPhee quipped, this is pro hockey. That would have been a rock star verus the all star.
McPhee was referring to comments made by Capitals goalie coach Olie Kolzig on Wednesday when he said Ovechkin was caught up with his rock star status. Wideman was the Capitals lone participant in the 2012 NHL All-Star Game.
Hunter witnessed plenty of practice altercations during his playing career and saw Thursdays battle between Ovechkin and Wideman as an indication of his teams frustration level.
The intensity that goes into practice usually goes into the game and thats good, Hunter said. Its playoff hockey right now so everybodys intensity is a lot higher and more on edge.
The Capitals have won four straight Southeast Division titles and are usually sitting on a comfortable lead in the standings this time of year. The fact they are not has set a different mood in the locker room and on the ice.
Its not about fun time, Ovechkin said. Its a serious time and everybody realizes it.