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Ovechkin begins second NHL season as Capitals visit Rangers

Oct 5, 2006 - 1:56 PM Washington (29-41-12) at NY Rangers (44-26-12) 7:00 pm EDT

NEW YORK (Ticker) - The Washington Capitals can not afford to have Alexander Ovechkin go through a sophomore jinx this season.

The reigning Calder Trophy winner, Ovechkin opens his second campaign with the Washington Capitals on Thursday, when they visit the New York Rangers in the season opener for both teams.

The 21-year-old Ovechkin was one of the bright spots in an otherwise disappointing 2005-06 season for the Capitals. He became the second rookie in history to score 50 goals and 100 points and easily beat Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for rookie honors.

Ovechkin will have a little more on-ice protection this season with the addition of former Philadelphia Flyers left wing Donald Brashear, one of the league's most feared fighters.

Despite the presence of former Vezina Trophy winner Olaf Kolzig, Washington gave up 306 goals - the league's second-highest total behind Pittsburgh - and finished next to last in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals also led the league with 673 penalties.

Just making the playoffs may not be enough to satisfy the Rangers, who made their first postseason appearance in 1997 under coach Tom Renney.

Led by Jaromir Jagr, who scored 123 points to finish second behind San Jose's Joe Thornton for the Art Ross Trophy, New York topped the Atlantic Division for much of the campaign before losing to the New Jersey Devils on the final night of regular season.

The Rangers' return to the playoffs was painfully brief, with a four-game sweep by the Devils.

New York added some scoring punch by acquiring 37-year-old Brendan Shanahan, who helped the Detroit Red Wings to three Stanley Cup titles. He had 40 goals and 41 assists and needs two tallies to reach 600.

Henrik Lundqvist comes off a sensational rookie campaign, which saw him post a 30-12-9 mark and a 2.24 goals-against average in 53 games. For good measure, he finished third in voting for the Vezina Trophy and helped Sweden capture Olympic gold in Torino in February.

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