Alex Ovechkin returns to Capitals, talks about threats of staying in Russia

Kris Connor

Alex Ovechkin took to the ice in red and blue on Tuesday, and afterward, he talked about the chance that he could have stayed in the KHL for good.

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Tuesday morning, Alex Ovechkin took the ice at the Capitals' practice facility in Virginia for the first time since returning from his 31-game stint with the KHL's Moscow Dynamo.

A group of 10 Caps players gathered for an informal workout at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, but the bulk of the attention was on Washington's captain -- who months ago told the Russian media he wondered if he'd ever return to the National Hockey League.

After his first workout in North America in five months, Ovechkin spoke to the media about his experience in Russia.

"It was for me personally it was great," Ovechkin said. "First of all, I was in my hometown with my family and my friends. ... it was a good thing. [I] play for my home team in front of my old fans ... I think I have a very good experience there, I can see why [Dynamo were KHL] champions last year."

After Ovechkin's pointed comments about potentially remaining in Russia after the lockout ended, and with his good friend Ilya Kovalchuk still playing in the KHL on Tuesday, he reiterated his earlier position he would have stayed had salaries been cut.

"I was in the same position like [Kovalchuk], I talked to him, I talked to Malkin, I talked to Datsyuk, all the Russian players there. If they were going to cut our contracts, we'd probably all stay there."

When asked if he thought a deal would be reached to end the lockout, Ovechkin said he didn't.

"To be honest with you, no," he said. "I thought I was going to stay to the end of the season and play in Russia. You ask any guy in Russia, they'd say the same thing. It was a hard time for some of us, but it's over."

Ovechkin, who scored 19 goals and 21 assists with Dynamo, caught a flight from Moscow to Washington Monday afternoon and was back in a Capitals practice jersey - and a dark home helmet, unlike his other teammates - less than 24 hours later.

"This is my first [lockout], I can tell you right now, it's not that a good feeling when you're sitting at home watching TV, watching different sports if you're a hockey fan," he said. "Especially [now in Washington] when the crowd was unbelievable and the crowd was cheering us."

"Even last night at [Dulles Airport], people recognize me and say 'Thank you very much for coming back. We can't wait to see you play.' The fans love [the] Caps, love hockey, it happened, it happened."

Ovechkin also commented on his engagement on Dec. 31 to Russian tennis player Maria Kirilenko.

"I feel normal. She's not with me right now, she's in Australia," he said. He added jokingly that with "the tennis racket and she can hit you." No wedding date has been set.

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